Clean Tech

Smart and contactless farming to the rescue

Preeti Mehra | Updated on July 14, 2020 Published on July 14, 2020

IoT solutions are giving a boost to agricultural productivity in these pandemic times

Young minds in India have proved to be as fertile as the farms they want to serve. Therefore, in recent years, one sector that has attracted a large number of start-ups is agri-tech. Every year, a few agriculture-focussed companies sprout hi-tech products to help farmers increase productivity, deal with the vagaries of nature, find the right farm machinery, smarten their cold storage and supply chain — in short, they offer cultivators smart technology, artificial intelligence, and IoT-based solutions, most often executed right on their smartphones.

One such device being seen as useful for growers who would like to stay home during the ongoing pandemic is Kraashak, which helps you monitor your farm without going to the field. This is through deploying the device, comprising multiple sensor nodes, in the fields.

Kraashak is an IoT sensory system with the ability to measure and monitor the entire gamut of on-the-ground conditions favourable for a crop to grow. To ascertain the condition of the soil, it measures temperature, moisture, conductivity, PH, moisture absorbance rate; to gauge the geographical and environmental parameters, it keeps track of temperature, humidity, light intensity, CO2 level, and weather data from external stations. The data collected is sent to a proprietary cloud platform, AgriVital, where an AI-powered expert system reads it and further computes it to provide predictive analytics for specific plants or crops. It picks up the improvements, the deterioration, or any subtle changes and provides recommendations customised for the grower on his or her smartphone.

“Specialised farms have shown a great deal of interest in the technology and drip irrigation is the need of the hour in this pandemic era. There has been an increase in demand for the device as it reduces labour requirement. It will favour the post lockdown era where it will be much harder to find farm labour willing to travel to other parts of the country,” says Mayank Rajput, who holds a joint MSc Engineering degree in Green Electronics from Nanyang Technological University Singapore and TU Munich Germany.

Rajput runs Aigroedge Technologies with his two partners, Abhai Tiwari and Akshay Taneja, all three below 30 years of age. Rajput and Taneja met during their MSc degree in Singapore and discovered they shared the same interest. They volunteered during weekends to help farmers manage their organic vegetables and herbal plants. In the process, they became familiar with the ins and outs of urban farming. This is where the idea of a start-up for specialised farming germinated. They were joined by Tiwari who was working at CSIR-CEERI and comes from a farmer family. He brought with him several years of first-hand experience on issues faced by cultivators in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand while growing holy basil, mushroom and rosemary.

Working with farmers

Currently the venture is incubated at the government’s Electropreneur Park in New Delhi and recognised by Start-up India and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. Rajput says Aigroedge is working with farmers who have large landholding as well as those with small farms, in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand, to help them achieve high yield and enhanced profit margins. The large farmers are more open to experiment with technology and tend to devote a small area of their land to grow exotic vegetables such as mushroom, red and yellow capsicum and cherry tomato.

The venture is also offering services to urban growers who are discovering the delights of hydroponics, vertical farming, rooftop gardens and for organic and greenhouse farming. “In the long term, we plan to license our technology to the untapped specialised agriculture market in South-East Asia, especially Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, which are big time into exotic plants. We already have good traction with agri-tech companies in Germany and Singapore. Besides, we are looking for synergy with agriculture research institutions, agri-SAAS companies, even banks and insurance companies who can use it to estimate farm credit scores for loans and claims,” says Rajput.

But right now, given the pandemic, it is growers keen on experimenting with contactless farming who are driving sales.

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Published on July 14, 2020
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