Firm incubated at IIT-Kanpur harnesses tech for irrigation management

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on August 21, 2019

A Kritsnam technician studies the reading on an instrument. (right) One of the Pani data collecting devices installed in the field

Come November, farmers who get canal water for irrigating their fields in a Telangana district – most likely in Karimnagar district – may have a chance to try out something new to improve productivity of the winter rice crop.

The irrigation department of the Telangana government has roped in Kritsnam Technologies, a firm incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, to carry out a pilot project aimed at improving canal irrigation efficiency in the State.

Pilot project

Called Irrigation Scheduling using real-time data on Water Availability and Requirement, or ISHWAR for short, could be a powerful tool that could improve the efficiency of India’s notoriously poor canal water irrigation system management.

Developed by a team of technopreneurs who graduated from or are studying at the IIT Kanpur, ISHWAR has already caught the attention of three major agriculture-dependent States – Telangana, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. While Telangana, which has come forward to fund the experiment will be the first to go on stream, the other two will follow suit soon.

In India, more than 22 million hectares of farmland is irrigated, much of it through canal water. “But India’s canal water productivity is one of the lowest in the world. Once the water is released in these canals, it is seldom monitored. Besides farmers have no say in deciding when they want water and when they don’t,” said K Sri Harsha, one of the co-founders of Kritsnam Technologies.

Controlled water release

The idea is to link water suppliers and water users in a manner that enables the release of the right quantity of water at the right time. What ISHWAR would do is to calculate water requirement of each farm on a broad scale using weather and agronomic data collected in real time through satellites and ground-based measurements, said Harsha, who is a trained hydrologist.

The irrigation efficiency in India is said to be about 38 per cent. “The farmers who are supposed to get water through canals do not get it at the right time. This leads to loss of productivity,” he said.

The Telangana experiment, which is partly funded by the Department of Biotechnology’s commercialsing arm, Birac, is all set to change this. According to Harsha, the project will be implemented over an area of 8,000 acres that currently receive canal water. “Most probably, it will be in Karimnagar district in the State,” he said.

Another project

This is not the only project that Kritsnam has currently undertaken. Another Kritsnam project is called PANI or Provision of Advisory for Necessary Irrigation, which is being implemented on an experimental basis in many villages in Kanpur Rural district. The pilot PANI project is funded through$22,000 provided by the World Bank and is implemented with the help of IIT Kanpur, the University of Washington and GeoKno, another firm incubated at IIT Kanpur.

Around 150 farmers are involved in the PANI project, commenced in November last year. The farmers participated in the project growing mostly wheat and some potato – were given timely advisories on soil moisture levels and rainfall forecast which they used to tweak their irrigation schedules.

This kharif season, the Kanpur farmers and the firm are already on to rice crop .

Published on August 21, 2019

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