Although India is among the top producers of several agricultural commodities, it continues to have grossly inaccurate production estimates. Maharashtra, the second largest producer of cotton, soybean and sugarcane in the country, has often missed its production and yield estimates. Accurate data is also required to compensate farmers for crop losses caused by natural calamities and for settlement of insurance claims.
The Maharashtra Government plans to soon sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to use drone technology developed by its aerospace engineers for estimating area, yield, and health of soybeans and cotton.
In the case of sugarcane, production estimates have gone wrong time and again. Despite the use of satellites, the sugar industry estimated 2017-18 sugar production at 251 lakh tonnes while the actual production was 28.5 percent higher at 322.5 lakh tonnes. In the absence of reliable government data, vested interests are known to manipulate production and storage estimates of commodities such as cotton, soybeans, and pulses. While the central government set up the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre in 2012 to use state of the art technologies developed by the ISRO, accurate data continues to be elusive.
The Maharashtra government has been experimenting with the use of drone technology to estimate crop damage for the past few years with the help of private agencies. “We have submitted the results to the MNCFC. However, the progress hasn’t been satisfactory,” said a government official. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Pasha Patel, Chairman of Maharashtra State Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices, held a meeting with KPJ Reddy and SN Omkar, professors of aerospace engineering at IISc, to set up centers in Maharashtra.