Agriculture drones to help Precision Agriculture Practices
Wednesday, August 31 2016, Colombo : CIC Holdings PLC (CIC), a leading blue chip company in Sri Lanka, recently announced their latest innovation, the use of agriculture drones for Precision Agriculture Practices – Smart Farming. The technology helps to scan fields and distribute agro chemicals and fertilizer with the minimum human involvement and wastage. This is the first time in the world that areas are being identified and automatically treated using the drone and GPS technology.
Commenting on the project, Samantha Ranatunga – Managing Director, CIC Holdings stated, “CIC has been a pioneer in agriculture and research and this is a result of that effort. With this project we hope to reduce the misuse of agro chemicals (pesticides and fertilizer) while reducing the human exposure to agro chemicals in Sri Lanka. This method will also help to reduce the excess amount of agro chemicals and fertilizer released to the environment.”
Manju Gunawardana, one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized and highest awarded innovators has been working on this project with CIC Holdings for the past 7 years. Gunawardene has already won 3 gold medals and a silver Medal at the Innovators Competition staged in Geneva, Switzerland. He started his career in 1990 by winning the National inventors title and won the title again in 2012. Manju is currently working as a consultant to CIC Precision Agriculture and runs his own research firm In India.
Commenting on its status, Manju Gunawardene – Inventor, Senior Research Scientist, CEO at Hybrid Technologies, Consultant – CIC Precision Agriculture, said “The country needs productivity increase in agriculture sector to meet increasing food demand, to enhance farmer profitability as well as to optimize utilization of resources such as land, water, fertilizers to make the whole system more sustainable. As a stepping stone in that direction, we thought of introducing this solution to Sri Lanka. The normal agro practice is that you observe and measure and finally respond to it which is time consuming, destructive to the field and has a high variability due to different perceptions of people.”
The new three step process outlined by Manju Gunawardene:
Observe: Elaborating on the key methods of Precision Agriculture Practices – Smart Farming, he said: The drone will fly over the field and collect data, this gives the farmer a different perspective of the field. Color differences, variations and gaps where there is room for cultivation are not visible when you observe the field from a ground level. Capturing the entire picture of the field from a higher perspective helps determine 1st of level of remedial action and engagement.
Measure: Using this drone technology, the use of multi-spectral cameras, special sensors and advanced software systems helps to differentiate healthy and unhealthy crops, the size of plants and especially detect infections, temperature of the soil and detect plant diseases, pest attacks and weeds using the NDVI Technology (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). The most important part of the technology is the ability to run a check on the nutrition level of the soil. The captured data can be used as a yield prediction tool as well.
Respond: The problem with the current manual practice is the use of resources such as water, manure, pesticides in haphazard manner. There is high wastage,There is high wastage, high human exposure, it is high cost and it is destructive as it leads to resource depletion and pollutes the environment. As the first step of reducing these effects, our automated drones will reduce the human exposure and the amount of fertilizer and agro chemicals used. The drones will only deploy the required amount of fertilizer to the areas with nutrient deficiencies and the agro chemicals only to areas affected with weeds using maps and captured data. Also these drones are equipped with special instruments to repel wild elephants.
”Precision Agriculture helps to cut down all the drawbacks of the manual practice as it’s extremely fast, low variability, low cost and most importantly it’s non-destructive to the field. The main objective at this juncture is to reduce inputs thereby ensuring a better harvest with use of ‘Precision Agriculture Practices’ (Smart farming)” he further stated.
Highlighting the use of drones Gunawardene added: “Unlike other countries we can’t use fixed wing aircrafts to distribute fertilizer as you need thousands of acres to do so. We have small land masses therefore it’s more practical to use drones. We will be operating the drones within the civil aviation regulations of Sri Lanka. Drones are not the heart of this project, the data set we have gathered with CIC is the heart of this entire solution. The company’s research and development team has used studies and research on varies types of crops, growth and deficiency data for the past 7 years to introduce this solution.
CIC will be offering this new technology as a service to the farming communities in Sri Lanka.