The bid to promote precision farming in India got a major boost after the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare issued guidelines to make drones more accessible to farmers and stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
According to a Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare release, new amendments have been made to the guidelines of Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization. Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, ICAR institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and state agriculture universities can take advantage of a grant that pays 100 percent of the cost of the drone or Rs. 10 lakh, whichever is less. The drones purchased off of the grant must be used to organise large-scale demonstrations on farmers’ fields.
The Farmers Producers Organisations will receive grants up to 75 percent on agriculture drones for demonstrations. Agencies that don’t want to purchase drones can hire them for demonstrations from hi-tech hubs, custom hiring centres, drone manufacturers, and start-ups. The agencies will be provided a contingency expenditure of Rs 6,000 per hectare. The contingent expenditure to implementing agencies that purchase drones for demonstrations would be limited to Rs 3000 per hectare. As per the release, the financial assistance and grants would be available until March 31, 2023.
This announcement by the union ministry is a clear indicator of the direction drone technology is headed in India. Only a few days back it was announced that the nation’s capital will be lit up using 1,000 drones during the Republic Day celebrations. India will become the fourth country after China, Russia, and the UK to host a large-scale show comprising 1,000 drones. While the main purpose of the drones in this instance will be to showcase government achievements via creative formations, this state-of-the-art technology has also been utilised to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to largely inaccessible areas.
For now, making agriculture drones accessible for precision farming is a step in the right direction. How much agricultural stakeholders utilise the grant to benefit farmers, though, remains to be seen.
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