Friday, January 27, 2023

Apple transportation through drones to become reality in tribal Kinnaur district of HP

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Apple growers in remote and inaccessible areas of the tribal Kinnaur district are in for a new revolution as transportation of apples through drone technology would soon become a reality.



Successful trials of transportation of 20 kg apple boxes were done in Rohan Kanda village in Nichar block of Kinnaur district and the boxes were transported for a distance of 12 km from an orchard to the main road in six minutes by the Vegrow apple procurement agency in collaboration with Skyeair.

The trial for lifting apple boxes was done to check the feasibility, battery and rotation time and assess the load lifted in one rotation in November and the cost aspect is being worked on now. “Our target is to lift about 200 kg in one go to make the transportation economical for the apple growers and we are hopeful that the fruitful model would be implemented by the next season,” said incharge of Vegrow, Dinesh Negi.

Financial feasibility is being chalked out and the administration would facilitate the company for getting the licence and other requirements but the deal is between the private company and the orchardists, said Deputy Commissioner Kinnaur, Abid Hussain Sadiq.

“There is no road connectivity to the twin villages of Rohan Kanda and Chota Kanda in Nichar block of Kinnaur and the apple boxes are carried on foot and a maximum of three boxes (90kg) are brought to the road in one trip. It takes over four hours for one round due to hilly terrain and a coolie (labourer) can take maximum of three rounds in a day, said an apple grower from Nichar Manoj Mehta, adding as the process is time consuming the freshness of the fruit is compromised and labour shortage is another problem.

Successful trial has rekindled hope of timely and safe transportation especially at time of early snow and talks are going on with the private company to fix the prices and efforts are afoot to made transportation of 200 kg of apple boxes at one time to reduce the cost, said Vice-Pradhan of Gram Panchayat Nichar, Jagdev.

The move would help in reducing the cost of transportation besides saving time as bringing apples from hilly terrain to the main road for loading in trucks is an expensive, time-consuming and tough task as these orchards are not connected by roads, he told PTI.

Apple is grown on 10,924 hectares in the district. The apple transportation from the lower areas of Kinnaur starts in August-end but the bulk of transportation takes place from October 15 to November 15.

This year, 40.83 lakh boxes were produced as compared to 24.33 lakh boxes in 2021 while the number of boxes was 36.64 lakh in 2020, 28.43 lakh in 2019 and 30.83 lakh in 2018. One box contains 20 kg of apple, officials in the Kinnaur horticulture department said.

The price for transporting five kg weight for one kilometre has been fixed at Rs 45 and for 10 Kg at Rs 55 by the Himachal Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd (HPSEDC) for government departments, said Managing Director of the corporation Mukesh Repaswal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also recently talked about the successful trail of apple transportation through drones during the “Mann Ki Baat” programme and said that delicious apples of Kinnaur would reach the market soon as they would be lifted through drones.

The Himachal Pradesh government had given consent to Drone Policy 2022 with the objective of propagating Drone-enabled technology for heralding economic prosperity and creating employment avenues in June this year. In the agriculture and horticulture sector, drones would be used to gather farm and crop specific data to assess farm productivity, assess crop damage, spray of fertilizers on crops and reduce misapplication of resources, officials maintained.

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