Drone technology revolutionalizes farming in Kuttanad

Alappuzha: The farming community in Kuttanad, known as the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’, is now increasingly embracing drone technology to achieve higher yields and overcome long-standing challenges like labour shortage, marking a significant shift in traditional farming practices.

These unmanned aerial vehicles, equipped with advanced cameras and sensors, are used for tasks such as crop monitoring, spraying of fertilizers and pesticides and even seeding in hard-to-reach areas with ease and precision, minimizing the need for human intervention.

“Certainly there is an increased demand now. We’ve sold 15 drones to farming communities in the region of late. The advantages are many like saving time, optimum usage of resources with precision and higher yield,” says Devan Chandrasekharan, Founder & Managing Director of Fuselage Innovations, which is into drone-manufacturing business.

With a single set of batteries, a drone can move on a GPS-defined route and carry out the task over a three-acre farmland in just 25 minutes, he pointed out. The price of a drone varies between Rs 4-8 lakh. “But then the government is now providing subsidies, ranging from 50 to 80%,” he pointed out.

The drones, according to him, can quickly analyze a field and determine how much pesticide the crop requires, making it easier for farmers to judge their input needs and estimate the crop size. “The operations follow a precision farming protocol that helps bring down the farming costs while ensuring additional yield. As per this, the expenditure per acre for spraying will be around Rs 3,000 while the return assured per acre will be around Rs 12,000,” he said.

However, such modern technologies could be afforded only in regions like Kuttanad, where farmers follow a cooperative system of cultivation, though many own farming lands individually.

“We follow cooperative system of farming (padasekharams) to cut down on expense since the below-sea-level farming is done here. This makes such technologies affordable since the cost is shared by a large group of farmers. Now drone technology is increasingly being experimented with in regions like Thiruvarpu and found effective,” said M K Dileep, Secretary of Upper Kuttanad Farming Development Society.

“Now fertilizers are available in spray form. Since below sea-level farming is done here, spraying fertilizers is more suitable as the paddy stalks can absorb the required nutrients and all, better than the roots,” he added.

Dileep pointed out that the society had submitted a written request before the government to extend help to the padasekharams to switch to modern technologies like drone technology. “They should extend support via subsidies so that such technologies become affordable.”

The new technology is also now amply promoted by bodies like the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kumarakom, and grama panchayats in the region.

“We did free pesticide spraying across Umbikkadu padasekharam in Kainakary panchayat using a drone the other day. The Krishi Bhavan and the panchayats in the region support the farming community adopting technologies that increase their yield and profits,” said M C Prasad, Kainakary Grama Panchayat President.