Drone seeding – first time in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Drone seeding – first time in Sri Lanka

Preparing the drone for action
Preparing the drone for action

Bringing hope amidst the coronavirus crisis, the National Youth Services Council (NYSC) launched a project on Wednesday (15) to aid the country’s agriculture sector using cutting-edge technology to promote environmentalism.

Theshara Jayasinghe

NYSC joined hands with SRQ Robotics to deploy a drone to drop thousands of seeds across five acres of farmland in Eraminiyaya off Hambantota.

“We are excited about this project. This is the first time we are using this technology in Sri Lanka,” CEO of SRQ Robotics Tharindu Suraj Chathuranga said.

Sri Lanka uses drone technology for photography and videography and using them for agriculture is a game-changer.

Government support

Chathuranga who graduated from the University of Moratuwa said that startups such as his needs the Government’s support to

engage in agricultural sector projects. “Otherwise it is a dead end,” he said.

The brainchild of the project is the Chairman and Director General of NYSC Theshara Jayasinghe who weighed several components before coming up with the project.

“I believe the investment in agriculture is high in Sri Lanka. The three scarcities we have when it comes to this are land, people and water. Through this project we can get the best use of all of them,” he said.

Glass ceiling

The ideology is that by using drones to seed, the process will be more efficient and cost effective, and provides the opportunity to later go for value added products. Another aspect Jayasinghe wanted to change was to ‘get rid of the glass ceiling between the student population and lecturers’.

“I wanted to do away with their traditional thinking, and to introduce something that is not in the curriculum. To go out to the world and see what is happening in the industrial agriculture sector. To infuse that ideology into the students,” the NYSC Chairman said.

He also said that the objective behind the project is to give an opportunity to young entrepreneurs and startups to use their technology and at the same time commend their efforts.

“There are new inventions in Sri Lanka every year but they are not appreciated enough,” Jayasinghe said adding, “I also believe that we have to encourage the agricultural services industry in the country, and encourage start-ups by introducing their technologies to the farming community and private companies.”

In the first phase, a drone was deployed to spray sorghum seeds in five acres (five kilos of seeds per acre) in about two hours. The seeds were secured in a pod attached to the drone and which was made in a way to release seeds when in the air using a controller. During the next phases of the project, Jayasinghe hopes to make use of the 300 acres of farmland owned by the NYSC.

Drones are used to scan paddy land to see if they are cultivated effectively. “Only 50 per cent of the farmlands were cultivated. We are able to see if the farmland is utilised effectively by using aerial footage obtained by the drones,” Jayasinghe said.

Later, the drones will also be used for reforestation where seed pods that are injected with nutrients and pro-biotics to aid growth will be released to the ground.