AgroChem Summit 2023: Industry bets big on drone use in agriculture

AgroChem Summit 2023: Industry bets big on drone use in agriculture

Second session was focused on the drone policy and its impact on agrochemicals; PLI scheme; challenges in deploying drones; and drone start-ups and new innovations

  • By Rahul Koul | March 03, 2023

The second session of AgroChem Summit 2023 titled, ‘Role of Drones in Agrochemicals Sector’ organized by the Indian Chemical News (ICN) on February 24, 2023 in New Delhi, discussed the overall policy perspectives regarding  drone technology by agrochemical industry besides the challenges and opportunities that come with its adoption.

Industry experts discussed the emergence of drones  as a viable alternative to a few key manual agricultural practices including agrochemical spraying. They analyzed the drone policy and its impact on agrochemicals; drones and PLI scheme of government; usage of  drones in agrochemicals; challenges in deploying drones; and drone start-ups and new innovations.

 The application of drones in developing countries including India are multifold, feels Dr Jitendra Kumar, Director, Institute of Pesticide Formulation Technology.

Speaking at the event, Kumar elaborated further: “The CIB has given approval to 479 pesticide formulations which can be used for spraying through drones. It will not only help in reducing the environmental load of pesticides but also the safety of the operator and farmers wherever they are handled directly. While CIB has given two years time for data generation, I am having certain apprehensions whether the present formulation will work. Only 30-40% of the pesticides formulations are new generation as most of the Indian industries are using old generation including the powdered and granular form that periodically chokes the nozzle at the time of spraying which won’t work with drones. Most of the developed countries are using advanced new age formulations and there is a need for us to adopt it on priority. We are already involved in public private partnerships to promote the use of drones and new age formulations. We are also studying the data for bettering the formulations.”

“A a lot of stakeholder consultations and new geo-political situations have put the drones in a new perspective. The kisan drones have the potential to bring a new revolution in the life of a farmer where he doesn’t have to go to the field for spraying and thus eliminates the risk of negative impact on his health. There have been global precedents across the globe wherein drone technology has been used at massive scale.

“Therefore, we are not the first ones to use it. There have been four major reforms in India, the first being in August 2021 when the government came up with the policy guideline for operating drones. That was the ease of doing business and let me say we have the most liberal drone policy. Second was financial incentives. The PLI scheme for drones is there besides the subsidy scheme. Third one is that India has to develop drones ingeniously and the import is banned as of now. The reason is that we can be owners of intellectual property of this technology and become net exporters in the longer run. Fourth is that the agriculture ministry is both the biggest promoter and customer of drones,” said Smit Shah, President, Drone Federation of India.

 “There are many myths floating around about the use of drones in agriculture and whether agrochemical spraying is foolproof. There is a myth whether the spraying would reach the last leaf in a vertical crop. Once the drone is flying, we use a automatic nozzles, propellers etc that come into action. The size of droplets from 100-500 microns is chosen as per nozzle which has been already notified in the guidelines. There is another myth that when a farmer was manually using 200 litres of water for one acre, how can the drone use just 16 litre or even lesser water for the same area. To counter such myths, it is important to highlight that the right combination of  drone blades, propellers and nozzles can help us to ensure the proper spraying. Agriculture ministry will have to arrange the technical demonstrations and awareness campaigns for farmers as they are mostly not so tech savvy,” said Sanjeev Kashyap, Chief Delivery Officer, General Aeronautics.

“Nobody in India has complete results of it. Adhoc approval to 477 chemical spraying was given by the ministry but the companies are still testing them. The trials are ongoing as of now at the universities, research institutes and agrochemical companies.  Most of the results are positive in most of the cases as the bio efficacy is much better than the traditional ways. The farmers have reduced the dosages and still found the results positive. The first green revolution came in India in 1960 when the hybrid seeds were imported from the US and we got a good yield. Now is the time to bring a second green revolution and it will be driven by drones. It can’t be just used for agrochemical spraying but a plethora of other applications in agriculture. If drone startups, investors, Drone Federation of India, agrochemical players come together, there is a huge potential that can be converted into a lot of opportunities,” said Suraj Kumar, Head - Strategy, IoTechWorld Avigation. 

“The drone is going to be a precision tool for the farmers and certainly revolutionize Indian agriculture. There are a lot of advantages of the drone technology including saving a lot of inputs, reducing the drudgery of humans involved in spraying besides saving ample time. Therefore, the government of India has already taken a few initiatives in this direction. To promote the adoption, the government has formulated many policies including standard operating procedures for crop wise drone applications. These guidelines are expected to be released soon. Farmers would need both demonstration of the drone technology for awareness and support for adoption. We have a program where we are giving 100% subsidy to central institutes and other organizations. Apart from that a Rs 3000 contingency grant is given for the demonstration. The FPOs too are given 75% subsidy and the same amount as a grant. There is no dearth of funds and we are keen to promote this technology,” informed Dr Vijay Kumar Kale, Additional Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. 

“A lot of efforts including policies have been made by the government on drones. Mechanization along with use of IT is leading to a different kind of revolution in Indian agriculture. We are always open to collaborating with the government for promoting the adoption of drones,” said Durgesh C. Sharma, Secretary General, CropLife India who moderated the  panel discussion. 

The inaugural edition of the AgroChem Summit 2023 themed as “Making India A Manufacturing Hub” brought together all stakeholders of the agrochemicals sector under one platform to brainstorm on the growth opportunities, safe and judicious use of agrochemicals by farmers, and current issues to draw a roadmap for the future direction of the Indian agrochemicals sector.  

The Summit was supported by Platinum Partner - UPL; Gold Partners - Godrej Agrovet, BASF, FMC, Dassault Systemes Solize, Carbanio, and Auxilife (a unit of GPC); and Associate Partner - Resistotech and Super Scientific Works. The event is supported by Industry Association Partners - PMFAI (Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India), Croplife India, ACFI (Agro Chem Federation of India), and CCFI (Crop Care Federation of India).

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