PANAJI: World’s first automated precision spraying drones are being developed in Goa by Agri-tech startup Ulavan. Moreover, the company also has the expert technology for mechanised harvesting with the help of a drone, according to a communique.
The Goan startup founded by Tarun Krishnakumar along with Akshay Saraf and Rajdutt Kenkre, aims to provide various drone-based technology solutions like precision spraying by identifying the crop from two metres distance, crop health monitoring and drone-based harvesting; at an affordable cost to farmers.
Drone-based spraying for flat land, will be the first drone services they will be starting in Goa. The drone has a capacity of 10 litres and can autonomously spray an area of 1 acre in only 10 minutes, says a statement by the startup, which is recognised by Government of India’s DPIIT.
The idea of usage of drones in agriculture was worked upon first in 2017-18 when Dr Gaurang S Patkar, HoD (Computer Engineering) Don Bosco College of Engineering-Goa, proposed the concept of harvesting oil palm fruit using a drone for the international competition at MPOB, Malaysia.
“The Idea consisted of a drone mounted with a cutting arm and a camera. It would fly up to the tree top, then using machine learning would identify ripe Oil Palm fruits. Depending on the ripeness it will either cut the fruit or move on to the next one. This process is conceptualised to save time and increase efficiency of harvesting the fruit as compared to manual harvesting. Also it would prove safer as no human would be required to climb the tree or cut the fruit. This concept could also be used for harvesting trees like coconut and areca nut. The concept was selected among the top 5 finalists in ICOPM 3 and received grants for prototyping the Idea. Dr Gaurang S Patkar, along with a group of final year students worked on building the prototype. The prototype had a fixed cutting arm and a camera. An image processing software was built that could distinguish between ripe and unripe oil palm fruits.The prototype was built successfully within the limited time frame and budget,” further reveals the statement.
The company also informed that Dr Patkar has patented this idea. A research paper was also published titled ‘A Mechanized Harvesting and Automated Grading Technology for Oil Palm Fruit’ summarising the findings of the project.
In the period from 2019-21, Ulavan Agritech Services (OPC) Pvt Ltd, which is incubated at Forum for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (FIIRE) at Fatorda; carried out R&D operations for making the drone autonomous and safe in agriculture. They aim to create rural level micro entrepreneurship model in Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They have built and tested autonomously flying drones with focus on safety of drones and third party.
According to Ulavan, who boasts of having 100% Goan employees, the sale of drones is not feasible as it will be difficult for a famer to use, maintain and follow government compliances. Hence, the company will provide the spraying service at Rs 1000/acre cost.
Ulavan Agritech has also been conducting free online workshops on drone building to share the knowledge and create an awareness about drones, in Goa since the last year.
The commercial operation of drones will commence once Ulavan Agritech secures the licenses from the Civil Aviation authorities. However, the company is hoping they will get the necessary support including from Goa’s Startup Promotion Cell.
For more information, visit www.ulavan.co.in