Manual spraying of pesticides and insecticides is time-consuming and unevenly spread. This has added costs and efforts of the farmers to a large extent. It not only affects crops but also the health of the farmers spraying the toxic chemicals. In India, pesticides are registered for agriculture, public health and for use in households. As of 2018, 279 pesticides (including bio-pesticides) were registered for use in India, of which about 255 are chemical poisons. This Indian drone is changing the way agriculture is carried out.
A start-up, Marut Dronteh, now endeavors to address these crucial issues that the agricultural sector is facing. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, 5,000 acres of crops have already been covered by targeted spraying of pesticides and fertilizers.
“The farmers are suffering yield losses due to inadequate or improper fertilizer application. If you do more of this, it could impact soil health as well. We can tell apart a healthy plant from an unhealthy one,” Prem Kumar Vislawath, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marut Drontech, told BusinessLine.
The start-up developed an intelligent, autonomous spraying drone targeted at agriculture, founded by a team of Indian Institute of Technology (Guwahati) alumni. The start-up gathers data and takes a few hours to analyze and map the crops for pesticide and/or fertilizer sprays. Thus, using drones that can cover 40kms in an hour in low altitudes. Another drone, by using a predefined route for spraying, takes the payload with it. To help the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the startup used similar techniques to identify the larvae population in lakes and helped reduce spraying instances, saving time and money.
The future of agriculture in India
The drone can carry a huge amount of data with RGB (red, green blue), hyper, multi-spectral cameras and powerful sensors compactly placed underneath it. It analyzes the crops to monitor nutrition deficiencies and diseases in a particular field. The drone can make a low-altitude (as low as 5-6 ft) flight and administer targetted sprays in a particular area.
For input manufacturers, the start-up is also selling data that they gather while working on the fields. “What we need is large amounts of data and machine learning tools to make the solution work better,” Prem said. To fund its activities the startup is hoping to receive $1 million, with seven employees and 12 consultants.
“The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) makes it mandatory to use exponential technology, including remote sensing, in addition to drone imaging, to detect fraudulent claims and discrepancies,” he pointed out.
“Farmers can make insurance claims by capturing drone feeds as evidence. The data is useful for insurance companies too to estimate damages and cross-check the claims,” he said.