Fr Carlos Luis SAC
Although drone technology usage in agriculture is in its nascent stage, it looks quite promising as it shows prospective results. As Paddy Man Fr George Quadros states, “The drone is going to change agriculture in Goa. I truly believe that it will also empower the farmer in Goa, who due to the cost of labour had either given up farming or left the land fallow for the longest time."
Drone technology will assist the farmer in scouting or monitoring plant health and field conditions, whether the soil be wet or dry. It will assist the farmer in planting and seeding. Other facets of this technology are the ability to carry out spray treatment, drone irrigation, drone pollination and drone security for farm management.
In Goa, drone technology will help in precision agriculture, filling the gap of human inefficiency caused by traditional farming. With the help of the drone, one can be accurate and make reliable choices given the exact information. Information like plant counting: plant size, plot statistics, stand number, compromised plots, planter skips, information on plant height; vegetation indices: leaf area, detection of an anomaly, efficacy of treatment, infestations, and phenology; and finally it will provide information on the need of water.
Drones used in agriculture are water resistant and therefore can fly in any weather condition. But the drone must have the following characteristics: it should have a navigation system to identify the territory that it needs to cater to, GPS to navigate accurately, high-quality cameras to take minute and detailed pictures, multiple sensors to capture the required data for further study and interpretation, programmable controllers and tools for different functions.
Apart from enhanced production and effective technique that the drone technology provides, it will give the farmer greater safety, for instance, spraying pesticides in challenging terrains or infected areas identifiable by the drone. It will help the farmer by reducing pollution that is otherwise caused due to crop spraying.
This technology will allow the farmer to make quicker decisions, as it will not just survey, but also provide an analysis, saving time in crop scouting or validating the viable treatment. Thus, agricultural drones will enable us to use to the optimum resources like water, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
In case of an untoward emergency and damage, the data collected on the drone can also be utilized for insurance claims. The calculation of risks and losses with the land can be easily measured with the data evidence provided by these drones.
This will let the Goan farmer breathe a sigh of relief, as for long the lands were left barren, and now we see a ray of hope with the amalgamation of technology with the human resource available. The farmers will be empowered because they will surely see more than losses, a striking profit. However, the farmers will have to understand the process. Thus formal training in its usage and the willingness of the farmer to adapt to this technology will help salvage the situation.
(The writer is a priest belonging to the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine) and currently the Mission Secretary of the ABVM Province, Bangalore. He comments on Literature and Films that mirror life)