How drone technology enhances farm traceability and reduces pesticide usage

The global agricultural sector faces many challenges caused by a combination of environmental, economic, and social factors. Climate change stands at the forefront, presenting a multifaceted threat to sustainable food production. Rising temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods directly impact crop yields and food security. These climatic shifts not only threaten the livelihood of farmers but also jeopardise the stability of global food supply chains.

In the evolving landscape of global agriculture, technological advancements and data analytics are leading a significant revolution, particularly through precision farming. As the market for precision agriculture is expected to grow from $6.96 billion at a growth rate of 12.8 per cent from 2022 to 2030, it underscores a shift towards more efficient and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. Precision agriculture, powered by data analytics, enables the targeted application of resources like water, nutrients, and chemicals, thereby optimising resource utilization and enhancing crop growth.

Among the technological innovations, drone-based crop monitoring has become a central tool, offering a comprehensive strategy for resource-efficient farming. Equipped with advanced sensors, such as hyperspectral imaging, drones facilitate the management of large agricultural areas, revolutionising the sector by leveraging previously untapped data.

Enhancing tracebility

Drone technology significantly enhances agricultural traceability by documenting every phase of the farming process, from sowing to harvest. This comprehensive documentation ensures the integrity and safety of the food supply chain, catering to consumer demands for transparency regarding the origins and sustainability of their food.

Drones enable the precise application of agricultural inputs, significantly reducing the amount of chemicals used on crops by 30-60 per cent. This not only minimises the environmental impact but also lowers the chemical residues on food products, with reductions in pesticide use averaging about 52 per cent. The targeted application of inputs enabled by drones decreases the need for heavy farm machinery, which in turn reduces fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Research indicates that adopting drone technology can reduce a farm’s carbon footprint by up to 25 per cent, contributing to the global efforts against climate change.

The precise data collected by drones helps farmers make better-informed decisions, leading to improved crop management and higher yields with an estimated increase in crop yields by 20-30 per cent following the adoption of drone technology, gradually decreasing resource waste.

Supporting crop protection

Drones support the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, promoting biological control methods and reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides. This approach leads to safer produce for consumers and the environment, aligning with the increasing demand for sustainable and responsible farming practices.

The integration of drone technology in agriculture extends beyond crop monitoring, revolutionising the entire lifecycle of farming. By enabling precise application of resources, drones reduce environmental footprints while maintaining productivity. They also contribute significantly to water conservation and sustainable farming, especially in water-scarce regions. Economically, drones enhance outcomes for farmers by optimizing resource usage and increasing crop yields, leading to greater profitability and sustainability.

The successful adoption of drone technology in agriculture requires comprehensive training and education for farmers and agricultural professionals. Programmes should encompass drone operation, safety, data collection, and analytical applications in farming to promote the adoption of technology by the farmers in agriculture for more sustainable and profitable farming practices.

The adoption of drone technology marks a pivotal shift towards more sustainable and transparent farming practices. By providing farmers with advanced tools and techniques, drones are reshaping the agricultural landscape, promising a future where food production is not only more efficient but also safer and more environmentally friendly. This transformation meets consumer demands for sustainable and traceable food sources, driving positive change throughout the agrifood system.

(The author is Co-founder and Director, BharatRohan – Agri-tech Drone Startup)

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