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Kisan Drones: How Will It Help Farmers Earn More Money

Experts are sceptical of the 'Kisan Drones' idea and wonder what benefits it would bring to farmers.

Chintu Das
Drone in Agriculture
Drone in Agriculture

Nirmala Sitharaman, the Union Finance Minister, said on February 1, 2022 that the Centre will encourage 'Kisan Drones' to assist farmers in assessing crops, digitising land records, and spraying pesticides and fertilisers. 

Experts are skeptical of the idea and wonder what benefits it would bring to farmers. "Will it help farmers earn more money?" "No one wants to answer that question," Devinder Sharma, an agriculture and food policy specialist, said. 

Drones, according to Nachiket Udupa of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, are not a pressing necessity in the field. "There are more serious issues afflicting the sector that require immediate response." 

For example, the government established a goal of doubling farmers' income by 2022. However, there is no sign that it will be completed this year, according to Sharma. Spraying pesticides and fertilisers may assist, but it is the industries that will profit the most, according to him. 

In 2021, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare published a standard operating procedure for using drones to spray pesticides and fertilisers. The document explains how to utilise these flying robots effectively and safely. 

The goal of utilising drones, according to experts, might be to decrease human exposure to toxic substances. They emphasised that, given India's massive job issue, it might not be a sensible option. 

According to Udupa, crop evaluation with drones would benefit crop insurance firms and large farmers. "The measure is aimed at the industry's main players, not small and marginal farmers." 

Drones would be used to digitise land records, according to the Centre. According to the idea, these flying things would scan the area, and officials will be able to compare the data with recorded information. 

However, as Udupa pointed out, this technology would not assist in resolving property issues. "Instead, they'll re-create the issue in the digital realm." According to Udupa, the digitised data might be utilised to create Agristak, a collection of technology-based agricultural solutions recommended by the Centre. 

Privacy concerns may arise as a result of digitization. "At the moment, there is no data protection law," Udupa noted. On December 16, 2021, the Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced in Parliament. 

For digital agriculture, the government has given approximately Rs 60 crore. It's unclear whether 'Kisan Drones' will get a piece of the pie at this time. 

Experts said that the government has not clearly stated how it intends to promote drones. "No one knows if the government would spend money or not," Nachiket said, adding that the administration should disclose more information. 

The goal is to employ these technologies in a way that helps farmers, according to Udupa. 

Start-Ups Are Given a Boost 

The finance minister also stated that the government's 'Drone Shakti' project will help start-ups. It will make the usage of drones as a service more convenient. Agriculture, construction, search and rescue, package delivery, industrial inspection, insurance, and videography are all applications for drone services. 

According to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, India's drone industry would generate Rs 12,000-15,000 crore in revenue by 2026, up from Rs 8,000 lakh in 2021. 

During the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2021, health researchers considered deploying drones to distribute vaccinations to isolated areas. Sitaraman noted that select Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) in all states will give the essential expertise in this field. 

Artificial intelligence, geospatial systems, semiconductors, space economy, genomics and medicines, green energy, and clean mobility systems will all be discussed. The government would assist these industries in developing indigenous capabilities as well as boosting R&D. Experts believe that this project will bring academics, industry, and government organisations together. 

According to the finance minister, “these industries have enormous potential to help the country modernise and achieve sustainable growth on a large scale. They create job possibilities for young people and improve the efficiency and competitiveness of Indian industry”. 

She also stated that the government will implement a public-private partnership programme to provide farmers with digital and high-tech services. The effort would include public research and extension institutes, private agri-tech businesses, and agri-value chain partners, according to the minister. 

Sitharaman stated that the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) will assist start-ups in the agriculture and rural entrepreneurship sectors. 

Startups that assist farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), rented farm machinery, and information technology-based services will be bolstered. About this idea, Sharma added, "Startups and FPOs are the new batteries of intermediaries." He noted that start-ups are paid commissions for promoting chemical inputs. 

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