On December 21, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar released the standard operating procedure (SOP) of using drones in agriculture. Less than a week ago, on December 16, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed farmers and people associated with the food processing industry at the 3-day National Conclave on Natural Farming at Anand in Gujarat. And on November 29, Parliament passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, without any discussion. These three developments in less than a month signify that the farm sector is finally getting the attention it always deserved.
Let’s talk about the use of drones in agriculture that the agriculture ministry has been able to finalize after consultations and approvals of other ministries and departments which have a say in this matter. It should be considered as a significant achievement given the lack of coordinated work culture in the government ministries and departments.
Agricultural drones can be used for precision farming, survey and mapping, and spraying of seeds, fertilizers, water, and other farm inputs. The use of drones can complete these tasks quickly and perhaps more efficiently as a price that could work out to be cheaper than using farmworkers. Agricultural drones are available from Rs 50,000 onwards, a price point that most Indian farmers can find affordable. Making drones is not a difficult task especially for engineering graduates. The know-how is readily available and it requires a few pieces of machinery.
The use of drones on Indian farms can trigger some fun and amusement in rural India that has been left behind by the development that India in its cities take for granted. There would be some smiles on the faces of poor farmers. The use of tractors or solar power doesn’t have the same wow-factor that a drone can have. Drones are used to fly over and hover around difficult-to-reach spots during the construction of high-rises to take photos and videos for analysis and intervention. Drones can do the same on agricultural farms.
Imagine working on Indian farms during the sweltering heat of the summer! Farm productivity is not only linked to fertilizers and irrigation. No doubt they are important. But the most important thing is the zeal and enthusiasm of the farmers to work hard and drive productivity. Looking at the Indian weather and the kind of living standards that most farmers have, it should be a sin to eat your morsel without paying a tribute to those poor farmworkers who toiled during those hot months of May, June, and July.
The monsoon is unpredictable and it will cause floods in over half of India while keeping the rest waiting and praying for rains endlessly. It’s again the poor farmworkers who brave the odds and ensure that the paddy is sown, transplanted, and the farms have proper outlets for the heavy downpour. Think of the chilling winter when wheat, pulses, and mustards need to be cultivated.
We folks in the city would never know what farming means, after all. A few visits to the farm are not enough to know what being an Indian farmer is all about. It’s braving the hot, the rain, and the chill – all of the Indian weather notorieties.
This portrayal of the farm is not new. But it needs to be told again as a reminder to our policymakers and to the pool of talents so they can think, plan, innovate, and produce appropriate solutions for the farm sector.
On December 16, the Prime Minister pitched for natural farming and elaborated how zero-budget farming can be a game-changer. He also talked about chemical-free farming by using manure made out of cow dung. But the Prime Minister completely missed out on the problem of drudgery that makes Indian farming labor-intensive and unappealing.
What Indian farms need today is technology-driven solutions where the farmers need to work smart, not hard. Whether it’s dealing with mud in the monsoon or cow-dung in cattle shed, unless machines replace humans, the Indian farming sector is never going to look like that of the USA, Israel, or China. India doesn’t need a mass movement in the farm sector. India needs and deserves a set of farm equipment at affordable prices that make farming easy and fun.
Working knee-deep in mud to sow paddy year after year leaves the farmers with thumb sores that never heal. Who cares for the pain of the farmers?
If drudgery is replaced with a dozen or two smart solutions, like agricultural drones, for example, the Indian farming sector will find its mojo. There are some agri-tech startups and they are bringing smart and meaningful solutions for the agriculture sector. The agriculture ministry should work with them and incentivize their contributions. That alone will bring prosperity to the Indian villages and their farmers. (IPA Service)