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News                                                                                                 AgriTech indiA  September 2018      11

                                                                                 Drones offer high-tech help to

                                                                                 Japan’s ageing farmers

                                                                                                                                 and  cheaper,  with  a price tag
                                                                                                                                 of about 4 million yen.
                                                                                                                                    Nileworks  is  negotiating
                                                                                                                                 with  authorities  to  allow
                                                                                                                                 operators  to  fly  its  drone
                                                                                                                                 without  a  license.  It  can  be
                                                                                                                                 controlled  with  an  iPad  and
                                                                                                                                 runs on mapping software that
                                                                                                                                 is simple to operate.
                                                                                                                                    “Our  ultimate  goal  is  to
                                                                                                                                 lower rice farming costs to one-
                                                                                                                                 fourth of what it is now,” told
                                                                                                                                 Nileworks  President  Hiroshi
                                                                                                                                    The  drone  can  quickly
                                                                                    he   next   generation   Tome,  the  local  agricultural   analyze  a  rice  stalk  and
                                                                                 Tfarmhand    in   Japan’s   cooperative.        determine how much pesticide
                                                                                 ageing rural heartland may be   The  drone  can  apply   or  fertilizer  it  needs,  making
                                                                                 a drone.                pesticides  and  fertilizer  to  a   it  easier  for  farmers  to  judge
                                                                                    For   several   months,   rice field in about 15 minutes   their input needs and estimate
                                                                                 developers  and  farmers  in   -  a  job  that  takes  more  than   the crop size.
                                                                                 northeast  Japan  have  been   an hour by hand and requires   Nileworks  plans  to  start
                                                                                 testing  a  new  drone  that  can   farmers  to  lug  around  heavy   selling the drone in May, with
                                                                                 hover above paddy fields and   tanks.           an annual target of 100 units in
                                                                                 perform backbreaking tasks in   The   Nile-T18   was   year one and 4,000 in five years.
                                                                                 a  fraction  of  the  time  it  takes   developed  by  drone  start-up   Other  drone  makers  such  as
                                                                                 for elderly farmers.    Nileworks  Inc  and  recently   SkymatiX  Inc,  jointly  owned
                                                                                    “This  is  unprecedented   tested  in  collaboration  with   by  trading  house  Mitsubishi
                                                                                 high  technology,”  said  Isamu   JA  Miyagi  Tome  and  trading   Corp  and  electronics  maker
                                                                                 Sakakibara,  a  69-year-old  rice   house Sumitomo Corp.  Hitachi Ltd, are offering drone
                                                                                 farmer  in  the  Tome  area,  a   Their  aim  is  to  ease  the   services on farms.
                                                                                 region that has supplied rice to   physical burden and improve   Shota  Chiba,  a  29-year-
                                                                                 Tokyo since the 17  century.  productivity  in  rural  areas   old  farmer  in  Tome,  said
                                                                                    Developers  of  the  new   battling  decades  of  falling   technology  can  modernize
                                                                                 agricultural  drone  say  it   birth  rates  and  migration  to   farming and lure young people
                                                                                 offers high-tech relief for rural   urban areas. In Tome, farmers   back to the land.
                                                                                 communities facing a shortage   are  an  average  67-68  years   “People still have a strong
                                                                                 of  labour  as  young  people   old  and  they  may  only  have   stereotypical image of farming
                                                                                 leave for the cities.   another  4-5  years  of  farming   as a dirty and hard-labour job,
                                                                                    “As we face a shortage of   left, Sakakibara said.  but it’s no longer all true thanks
                                                                                 next-generation  farmers,  it’s   “It’s  a  matter  of  whether   to  gradual  mechanization,”
                                                                                 our  mission  to  come  up  with   the body breaks down first, or   Chiba said.
                                                                                 new ideas to raise productivity   the tractor,” he added.  “New   technology   like
                                                                                 and  farmers’  income  through   Compared to larger radio-  diagnostic  drones  could  help
                                                                                 the  introduction  of  cutting-  controlled   mini-helicopters   change  this  old  image  and
          Helping farmers turn                                                   edge  technologies  such  as   that  cost  around  15  million   attract  more  young  people  to
                                                                                                         yen  ($135,758)  with  spray
                                                                                 drones,” said Sakakibara, who
                                                                                                                                 farming, which I truly enjoy,”
                                                                                                         equipment, the drone is smaller
                                                                                 is also the head of JA Miyagi
          into millionaires, the                                                                                                 he added.
          Tata Trusts way

            eelabai Jagan Chaudhari of   these  predominantly  tribal
          LSukapur  village  in  Dhule   villages by 2020. The baseline
          district of Maharashtra, is like   surveys we carried out before
          any  woman  farmer  that  one   the  project  launched  in  2015
          comes  across  in  the  Indian   showed  that  annual  average
          hinterland. A marginal farmer   income  of  these  families
          with  less  than  1  acre  of  land   was  between  Rs.  40,000  and
          to till, she has been eking out   Rs.  50,000,”  said  Ganesh
          a  subsistence  living.  But  not   Neelam,   who   heads   the
          anymore.  In  all  likelihood,  in   project  at  Tata  Trusts.  “It  is
          the  current  year,  she  may  be   gratifying  to  see  that  annual
          able to earn a princely sum of   income  of  around  20,000
          Rs. 3 lakh from her 82 cents of   farmers  participating  in  the
          land.                  programme is already around
            Or take the case of Mersing   Rs. 1,20,000,” he said.
          Vitala  Pawara,  a  goat  herder   Among  those  successful
          hailing   from   Kusumveri   farmers  is  Chaudhari,  who
          village  in  Nandurbar  district,   graduated  from  archetypal
          adjoining  Chaudhari’s  Dhule   cereal   and   vegetable
          district.  While  a  dozen  goats   cultivation   to   high-value
          that  he  reared  till  a  couple   horticulture.  And  Pawara,
          of  years  ago  gave  him  just   whose focus on scientific goat
          enough  to  survive,  Pawara   rearing  practices  has  paid  off
          is  now  much  sought  after  in   substantially.
          his  village  and  around  for   “Our  role  is  mainly  to
          guidance  on  profitable  goat   facilitate and provide technical
          rearing.               inputs.  We  help  them  in
            Both   Chaudhari   and   building  capacities  in  better
          Pawara  are  beneficiaries  of  a   agricultural  practices,  new
          major  programme  launched   crop  varieties,  better  seeds,
          by Tata Trusts to take marginal   etc. We introduce them to farm
          farmers from the lower strata   mechanisation  and  expose
          of  society  beyond  subsistence   them  to  similar  communities
          farming.  Launched  around   that  have  done  good  work.
          three  years  ago,  the  scheme   We  also  provide  them  with
          was  aimed  at  making  at   financial  support  to  a  smaller
          least  1,00,000  tribal  farmers   extent.”
          across  four  States  —  Gujarat,   Tata Trusts works mainly
          Maharashtra,   Odisha   and   with  women  farmers  and
          Jharkhand  —  earn  at  least   encourages  them  to  form
          Rs.  1  lakh  or  more  annually   women federations or Farmer
          from  their  small  parcels  of   Producer   Organisations.
          land.                  The  programme  is  designed
            “The  project  is  currently   in  such  a  way  that  these
          on  17  blocks  of  four  districts   institutions  will  continue  to
          where more than 50 per cent of   function smoothly beyond the
          the population is tribal. The goal   handholding  period,  building
          is to improve annual income of   on  the  strengths  of  each  of
          at least one lakh farmers from   their members.
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