Global crop science major Bayer has partnered with Bengaluru based General Aeronautics Pvt limited to provide DGCA-approved drone services for crop protection to small farm holders across India.
Drone spray services through certified and trained pilots will be available for crop protection to the farmers across rice, cotton, and soyabean crops from Kharif 2022, Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, Country Divisional Head - Crop Science Division of Bayer for India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, said. The company also plans to add corn, potato, wheat, and chilli in the upcoming Rabi season depending on receipt of label expansions and generation of farmer demand.
“To begin with, more than 50 drones will be made available to the farmers. These will be offered to around 25,000 farmers and will create technological awareness through demonstration for 100,000 farmers. The services (along with agronomic advice) will benefit smallholder farmers across the states of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka among others”, Wiebusch told Fortune India in an email interview.
The services will be offered through Bayer’s 1400+ Better Life Farming centres, partner Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and rural entrepreneurs. “We are also working with other innovative Indian start-ups to develop DGCA approved drones for rural entrepreneurs. Our endeavour is to facilitate technology access, training, and financing of drones to strengthen rural entrepreneurship ecosystem. We are recognized as a trusted partner for farmers around the world and strengthen our commitment to safe and sustainable agriculture, especially here in India”, Wiebusch said.
According to him, mechanisation is a cornerstone to advancing farming in India. “We believe that agriculture in the country is collectivising, mechanising/ digitising and becoming more sustainable. We remain focused on our commitment to reach 100 million small holder farmers by 2030 and believe creating business opportunities for rural entrepreneurs and developing business models around drone services will significantly serve this purpose. Drone services will transform the agricultural sector and extend sustainable farm practices in India”, he said.
Bayer is the first company to get label approval for its flagship brands ‘Nativo’ and ‘Vayego’ to use in rice crop through drones. To offer solutions in other crops Bayer is generating regulatory data for in house brands and doing internal trials to make this technology more suitable for Indian farmers. “As per the drone guidelines issued by MOA and CIBRC, the regulatory data for bio efficacy, plant safety, residue and more is being generated in collaboration with the state agricultural universities such as - Dr.Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli, Punjab Agricultural University, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University and Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University. We are also working in collaboration with the ICAR research station (CPRI, IRRI etc) to get label approval for the use of pesticides through drones”, Wiebusch informed.
The company says that with drone technology, only 8-10 litres water is required to cover one acre instead of 150-200 litre required in conventional spray pumps and one acre can be sprayed in 5-6 minutes versus 1-2 hours. “The farmers will not be exposed to any chemicals during this process as drones are managed from outside the field. With larger scale use of drones, efficient administration of pesticides will safeguard the crops and result in healthier crops. Increased Quality yield (Higher Productivity) will ensure better farm income for the farmers”, Wiebusch said.