Hovering low over the green carpet , it moves on a GPS-defined route and drops doses of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on targeted areas before flying towards the next location.
The stereotypical image of farm labourers lugging heavy tanks and hand-spraying pesticides is getting a 21st century makeover in northern Kuttanad with an increasing number of paddy farmers roping in drone sprayers.
The new technology, promoted by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kumarakom, is fast catching up in view of its capacity to address the perennial issues of labour shortage and efficiency in pesticide application.
According to G. Jayalakshmi, KVK programme coordinator, the device is much superior to manual spraying as it does a quick job and ensures uniform spraying of pesticides covering the entire crop. Since drones do not touch soil, they also help avoid crop damage through compaction.
“Considering the topography of the region with a huge network of waterbodies, we are limiting the usage of these machines only for the supply of bio-inputs and micronutrients and not fertilizers to avoid water contamination. The efficiency in its application is already visible on the crop after just two rounds of spraying and we are counting on this to reflect on the yield this season,” says the official.
Devan Chandrasekharan, managing director of Fuselage Innovations, a business start-up which operates sprayer drones, says the technology is being used in about 800 acre of paddy fields in northern Kuttanad in the ongoing season. The drones can quickly analyse 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 input costs while ensuring additional yield. The expenditure per acre for spraying will be around ₹3,000 while the return assured per acre will be around ₹12,000,” he says.
The technology, according to him, has many takers across the kole fields in Thrissur, though it is yet to become popular among farmers in the core areas of Kuttanad.
Farmers, meanwhile, too count on the technology bringing in a better yield this time. “People still have a strong impression of farming as a hard-labour job, but it’s no longer all true thanks to gradual mechanisation,” says a paddy farmer from Pallikkayal, near Kumarakom.