Artificial intelligence is making urban life easy by providing us comfort at many levels. And AI and IoT is also helping the rural sector find solutions to their agricultural problems.
A team of students from Punjab-based Lovely Professional University (LPU), along with their faculty, has invented e-parirakshak, an AI and IoT-based system for smart farming. The device is designed to monitor an agricultural field for its fertility, keep track of the water levels, soil temperature and moisture as well as intelligently control water pumps, blowers and sprinklers on the field from a remote location. The data collected by the device is further stored in the cloud for any future analysis.
The research team comprises Mahendra Swain and Prabin Das who are pursuing PhD in Electronics and Communications Engineering. They built the device under the guidance of Rajesh Singh, professor, School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, and Dr Anita Gehlot, associate professor, School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.
Talking to Swain and Das, we find out more about the device and how technology and smart thinking can help farmers yield more crop.
Does not need Internet
The students explain that e-parirakshak is a device that monitors temperature, humidity, soil pH, temperature, moisture and water level required for agricultural purposes. “It also provides a live feed of the field and remote access to water pumps, blowers and sprinklers through a hand-held device, and offers suggestions on the type of crop suitable for the field depending on its fertility, as well as the amount of water, fertiliser and environmental parameters needed to grow it,” explains Swain.
Talking about how the device works, Das points out that the device comprises several sensor nodes which can be deployed in the field, a handheld device with LCD screen which displays the field details and micro controllers that remotely power devices like sprinklers and water pumps on the field. “A farmer can monitor and manage through sensors and actuators deployed in the field,” says Das, adding, “Furthermore, the system can analyse the data gathered from the field through advanced machine learning algorithm to find out the most suitable crop that can be grown.”
Not only this, the device also detects any disease or infection in the crop and updates the farmer about it. The system can be used for both modern and traditional farming practices, that is open field, hydroponic and vertical farming. The device does not need an internet connection and works within a range of 10km with star topology. Its range can also be increased if required by using mesh topology.
Accessible To all
Das points out that agriculture is the backbone of the country and technology can help improve the condition of both the yield and the farmers. He says that it is high time that people started focusing on the solution for the problems that have existed for long.
The students agree that there have been a lot of technological advancement because of which agriculture has changed a lot over the last few decades. “Be it hydro-farming, vertical farming or any other farming, certain techniques are needed to optimise the crop quality,” says Das. Farmers need to be further empowered, and this starts with small steps such as talking to them and understanding their problems, where they are lacking and then coming up with practical yet affordable solutions. “Solutions should be such that they do not get limited because of space, crop type, or even language but should be available for all,” adds Das.
Make it Simple for farmers
A lot has been said about technology and its benefits. However, the students raise an important question: “Won’t the heavy terminology and complicated features confuse farmers who have no tech literacy?” Swain says that technological advancement has helped the agricultural sector in a big way.
“However, with advancing technology we also need to focus on the fact that farmers need to understand the device/ operations. If we keep talking about the features and the backend of the devices, apps and technologies, we might confuse them. Drawing their focus on the front end of things is important,” he says, adding that farmers need to be taught how to use certain technology instead of asking them to focus on the more technical aspects.