PANAJI: Balancing technology, with traditional farming practices, as well as research about the goodness and value of indigenous species of crops and crop products, is critical to the growth of agriculture in Goa, according to Goencho Xetkar, an agri-tech farming collective.
Members of the collective delivered a talk on the importance of the agritech concept in farming in Goa today, citing the importance of drone technology, which Stanley Fernandes, a Director General Civil Aviation-certified agritech drone pilot in Goa, said offers precision-spraying and the potential for organic fertilisation with controlled fertiliser application.
“Take a drone and you can actually survey your field, find where the pest has hit. You have AI and apps now, which can tell you the exact nature of the pest and how to tackle it. That is the level of drone technology that we’re looking at,” Fernandes said in his MOG Sundays Talk hosted at the Museum of Goa in Pilerne. Fernandes is a partner at Goencho Xetkar.
While technology has the potential to provide the necessary cutting-edge to farming practices, Kenneth Lopes, another partner at the collective, says there is a great deal of traditional wisdom, which our indigenous farming practices are loaded with. Take for example the practice of growing an alsande crop, soon after a cycle of paddy cultivation.
“Once the paddy crop was done with, we used to grow alsande. The local Goan beans are a natural way of fixing the nitrogen levels of the soil. Basically, again, you don’t limit yourself only to one crop, you multi-crop. And that, as studies will tell you, re-enriches the soil once again,” said Fernandes.
The drop in paddy cultivation in Goa, a state which was reputed as a major rice producer, has also been consistent, rue the Goencho Xetkar members. In 1961, the year Goa got liberated, 50,302 hectares of land in Goa was under paddy cultivation.
“By 2014, it dropped down to 41,970. By 2015-16 it had dropped down to 41,344 hectares. By 2016-17 it was 40,823 hectares,” Lopes said.
Stanley Fernandes highlighted the concerns of young individuals entering the field of agriculture, particularly citing knowledge gaps and worries about remuneration. However, he noted that the attraction towards technology and machinery serves as a motivating factor.
Mechanisation stands as the key for the sustainability of agriculture, emphasising the necessity of collaboration among farmers through community or collective farming. Individual efforts might struggle to sustain agriculture in the long run.
Advocates of this agricultural revolution stress the importance of initiating cultivation regardless of any pending legislation linked to land use. While legal frameworks are crucial, they should not impede progress; technology offers a promising path towards efficient and sustainable farming practices.
He also said that a lot of research about the value of local products was still due, which included processed farm products like coconut oil.
“Problem is there is hardly any research, say something like coconut oil. Everyone knows about the benefits of olive oil, avocado oil. But we’ve got local oils here, just that we’ve not done the research to back it up. That’s where we’ve lacked. We’ve lost a trick or two,” Lopes said.