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business-standard.com Mar. 30, 2016

Satellite mapping to boost dairy farming

Big cooperatives are taking the help of Isro to track livestock and fodder in villages

Sohini Das

Dairy farming is the latest addition to the list of traditional businesses that are achieving higher efficiency and productivity through technology.

Big cooperatives are taking the help of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to track the milk system at village-level more efficiently. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has taken the help of satellite imaging to track the animal population, fodder status, and land use patterns. Recently, an NDDB project won an award at the Geosmart India 2016 for developing an ‘internet-based dairy geographical information system’ or IDGIS.

IDGIS is a visualisation tool which enables identification of villages and integrates human census, livestock census, land-use and land-cover of villages in all the major milk producing states. A senior NDDB official said around 500,000 villages had been covered, helping milk unions plan their village-level activities more efficiently.

Anand-based NDDB has also joined hands with Isro’s Space Applications Centre and completed a pilot study of the fodder growing areas in Banaskantha district of Gujarat, using satellite imaging. Implemented at a mass scale, this would help policymakers address scarcity of fodder.

The project assumes significance when pitched against the current fodder growing pattern in India. While India is the largest milk producing country in the world, around 80 per cent of dairy farmers are small and marginal and contribute to 70 per cent of total milk production. They, however, do not own much land. According to estimates only five per cent of the country’s farmland is devoted to fodder farming.

ISRO had earlier developed crop production forecast technology for major food crops, using remote sensing techniques. However, fodder crops are normally grown sparsely and on very small plots, said an NDDB official.

“This makes the job of discrimination of these crops through remote sensing quite challenging,” he added.

The pilot project at Banaskantha estimated the area under green fodder crops in the district (81,000 hectares) and fallow areas as well as cultivable wastelands (57,000 hectares) with 77 per cent accuracy level. It also pointed out that around 35 per cent of the villages in the district have more than five per cent wasteland which could be developed to grow fodder.

The aim of the study was to generate data that could help in using available fodder optimally, the NDDB official added.

This would help in planning the fodder supply chain in case of any shortage in a particular area. Fodder prices have nearly doubled in the past 10 years and fodder shortage is estimated to rise to 400 million tonnes by 2025. This study will now be scaled up on the national level.

 

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