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Digital Transformation of Agriculture with Drones in 2023 and Forecasting Trends for 2024

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By Amandeep Panwar, Director and Co-founder, BharatRohan- Agri-Tech Drone Startup

The digital revolution has advanced India Inc. on various fronts over the past two decades. With India being an agrarian country largely, the digital revolution has left a stellar impact with its diverse applications in the vast agricultural industry here too. In a bid to reap the maximum benefits that will help the country spur to new heights in tapping both the domestic and global agri-supply market, India is now witnessing a rising demand for precision farming applications including Field Mapping, Variable Rate Application (VRA), Crop Scouting, Livestock Monitoring, and Crop Spraying. A one-stop solution to promote this is Agricultural Drones.

Known for their wide-ranging benefits that strengthen farmers’ harvesting output and integrally contribute to the country’s economy at large, Agricultural Drones are currently in a nascent stage of adoption but possess a substantial growth prospect in the coming years. Reportedly, the market for using drones in agriculture is set to grow from a $1.2 billion (USD) valuation in 2019 to a whopping $4.8 billion market by 2024. Also, in 2022, the global Agricultural Drones market was valued at US$ 1176.56 million and is forecast to reach US$ 6836.1 million by 2028, projecting a noteworthy Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 34.08% during the period from 2022 to 2028.

Opportunities in 2023

Let’s understand how far have we come in terms of adopting agri drones increasingly throughout 2023. This year, the agricultural sector in India has seen an uptick in the adoption and utilization of agri-drones for various purposes. These unmanned aerial vehicles, equipped with advanced sensors and digital imaging capabilities, have become crucial tools for farmers across the globe.

From the Indian perspective, in January 2022, the Government of India announced a strategic subsidy scheme of 100% or Rs 10 lakhs up to March this year, with a vision to instil farmers’ confidence in using agri drones and bring down labor load on the farmers. The subsidy was offered to Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes, ICAR Institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities. Reportedly, the Government of India has also notified about the setup of a contingency fund of Rs.6000/hectare for Drones on hire from Custom Hiring Centres (CHC). Together, the subsidy and contingency funds by the government have been noteworthy in helping connect drone manufacturers, facilitators and farmers from various regions in India.

It is time to dive deep into understanding the many benefits that agri-drones Drones in aiding the unorganized agri sector to flourish by leaps and bounds.

The Buzz Word ‘Precision Farming’: The buzzword in the farming sector in 2023 had to be ‘precision farming’ which is powered by drones. Farmers encouraged the use of this technology intending to collate comprehensive data about their fields and crop management. Through high-resolution imagery and data analytics, farmers were able to gather in-depth insights about crop health, soil conditions, and potential disease or hindrances requiring targeted action, etc., which was a far cry earlier.

Strengthening Harvest Output: On the back of the data provided by drones, farmers were able to make data-driven decisions regarding irrigation, fertigation, and pest management effectively with the advanced prediction information on weather conditions, and pest infestation periods. This precision agriculture approach increased productivity while systematically arresting resource wastage, which ultimately contributes to a sustainable farming approach.

Promoting Eco-friendly Farming Practices: While providing access to the data of the fields in real-time, the drones enable the farmers to respond promptly to issues including pest infestations or disease outbreaks, among several others. This practical approach reduces the need for excessive use of pesticides/herbicides which in turn promotes an environment-friendly farming ecosystem.

What Awaits in 2024

With 2024 being right around the corner, various prospective trends are expected to further shape the agricultural drone landscape better. They are as follows:

AI and ML Integration: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will further strengthen in application for precision farming. These technologies will help analyze vast datasets from drones, providing insights into optimal planting times, soil health, and customized crop management practices.

Sensors and IoT Applications: Connected environment for devices is already flourishing and Drones equipped with sensors and integrated with IoT applications will further help in real-time monitoring of the field’s conditions. Data regarding soil moisture, temperature, and crop health will empower farmers to make informed decisions, optimise resource usage, and minimise waste.

Robotics and Automation: Robotic solutions for planting, harvesting, and crop maintenance will remain in trend and only get better with time. Automated machinery with precision control will ensure accurate planting depths, selective harvesting, and targeted crop treatments.

Investment and Funding: The agritech sector will see notable growth in 2024 in terms of investment from various stakeholders. Investment in agritech startups and research initiatives will increase, which will further nurture revolution in precision farming, biotechnology, automation, and farm management software.

Conclusion

The digital transformation of agriculture with drones has brought a phenomenal change in the agricultural sector to flourish in 2023. With more innovation in the pipeline, the trajectory looks only upward in 2024 as we look forward to welcoming more positive changes in the sector. With precision farming at its core, the integration of AI, IoT, and robotics is set to revolutionise the way we farm with the use of modern-day agri drone tech.

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