The five-day workshop and hands-on training programme on application of drones in the agricultural sector, the first of its kind in the State, conducted by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) Agri Business Incubation Centre had a few surprises in store for organisers.
The participation of women, 17 out of a total of 44, in the training programme came as a surprise, says K.P. Sudheer, head of the incubation centre, which has conducted more than a hundred training sessions on processing and value addition of farm products and launching profitable enterprises using new technologies.
The training sessions have helped incubate new ideas and turn them into business proposals and ventures.
The workshop focused on fields like assembly, operations, repair and maintenance of unmanned flying machines, which can be pressed into service for micro nutrient application, crop/tree counting, damage assessment and yield estimation.
Participants discovered that drones can be deployed for purposes ranging from soil mapping to potentially harvesting coconuts and neera. T.V. Krishnapriya, an agri graduate from KAU, who participated in the workshop, said drones could be used for soil mapping, helping a scientist recommend the treatment required for the soil. Pest monitoring was another area, she added.
For differently abled Saju from Thrithala, the workshop was an eye-opener. He said as a farmer, he was able to discover the various applications of drones in farming activities and was keen to use the new technology.
Aisha Mangat, another participant, said drones could be used to improve the standard of cultivation of coconuts, which is grown in every homestead in the State. Coconut harvest and neera tapping were potential areas where application of drones was found useful, she said.
Sneha Remi, a sociology graduate, said she was able to familiarise herself with the rules and regulations governing the deployment of drones. Besides, a farmer can use a drone from the sowing of the crop to its harvest.
The positive response to the training session has prompted KAU to organise further programmes in the future. The workshop has also resulted in enquiries coming in from agencies like the Kerala Institute of Enterprises Development (KIED) in Kalamassery and the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. Enquiries from other quarters too were expected, Dr. Sudheer said.
He said the success of the workshop was that it did not confine itself to classroom instructions and theories but gave participants hands-on experience of handling a drone and its implications.