In order to increase agricultural productivity along with farmers income, Indian Maharashtra state has announced a precision farming plan across 40,913 state villages.
The announcement was made by the state chief minister (CM), Devendra Fadnavis during an interaction with farmers from Jalna, Palghar, Gondia, Solapur, Osmanabad, Jalgaon, Yavatmal, Washim and Parbhani districts recently.
Speaking on how precision farming can help farmers, Fadnavis said that with the usage of new technologies like drones, remote sensing, sensor-based drip irrigation, big data analysis, IoT and artificial intelligence, farmers will be able to predict which crop to sow and when to harvest.
The farming plan will be implemented by the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) with the assistance of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The usage of new technologies will also help farmers to override the challenges posed by changes in climate and recurring droughts in the state, Fadnavis stressed.
The state is also providing financial assistance up to INR 10 million ($ 140,000) to a group of 20 farmers collectively holding less than 100 acres of land under the group farming scheme.
Explaining further, Maharashtra CM said that the main objective of the state is to bring absolute precision in the process of farming in every field. By using this, farmers can predict accurately and precisely what crops are suited for the farms.
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Apart from making farmers understand how much water, fertilisers, and manure are required in the fields, the new technologies will help farmers to reduce post-harvest losses especially in perishable foods and grains, as well as maintaining soil fertility.
Maharashtra last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to use drone technology developed by its aerospace engineers for estimating area, yield, and health of soya bean and cotton. The state also signed another agreement with a private weather forecasting agency, Skymet, for setting up 2,000 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) across Maharashtra.
AWS will be used in finding the accuracy in rain pattern, humidity and expected rainfall also including informing about the best crop for the farmers. Before signing the MoU, Skymet has completed a pilot project for crop loss assessment for the state government using drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML).
Apart from this, there are many start-ups that are using new technologies to connect farmers and increase their income. Today, farmers use a platform such as Ninjacart, Waycool to sell their produce to big corporates directly.
Some start-ups like Aarav Unmanned Systems provide drone system to farmers for surveying/mapping, industrial inspection of their farm, whereas Intello Labs, Aibino & CropIn provide farm-related intelligence, technology, expertise and gadgets to farmers, enabling a 30-50% increase in yields.
Maharashtra government has been using drone technology in estimating crop damage for the past few years with the help of private agencies.