In India, a majority of people in the rural areas farm to earn their livelihood. However, poor soil conditions, irregular rainfall and poverty that forces them to stick to conventional farming methods — all result in poorer yields, that hamper the farmer’s progress, or worse, put them in debt, forcing them to end their lives.
While other elements are somewhat out of control, understanding the health of the soil and picking the right crops to better its productivity and health could come a long way in helping farmers get better yields. Today, most farmers are stuck with the conventional soil analysis technique that uses soil samples to be sent to a lab and most of the time, the results take a long time, with fairly inaccurate results.
A farmer’s son turned innovator witnessed these hardships and wanted to do something to help farmers circumvent this problem. Lalit Gautam, with his startup SenseGrass, has developed an IoT sensor that collects soil health data and puts it through 18 parameters to predict appropriate water and fertiliser usage to improve crop yield.
We got to speak with Lalit Gautam to understand how his IoT sensor helps to address the plight of farmers in India. He’s among 12 finalists with Qualcomm Design in India Challenge, in collaboration with AGNIi, the program by Invest India that helps in commercializing Indian technological innovation.
Farming made smarter
Gautam explained how is technology is bridging the gap between technology and farming, “Our IoT Sensor is Implemented with the Nano-Satellite analytic which measure values from both under and above the soil for high efficiency, We are making agriculture more precise through nanosatellite field images for farms with accurate precision farming through smart ground sensors for small farms which are hard to monitor. Our inhouse Smart soil sensing device predicts accurate data surveillance under and above the soil.”
He shared how his application is perfect for small and medium-sized farms, “Our 360-degree solution is the best fit for small farms for macro-level monitoring while effectively guiding as AI agronomists for small & mid farms which comprise 72% of global farms with a wide range of crops & topographies.”
Real-time satellite image to understand soil degradation
Lalit is harnessing nanosatellites that observe the soil health and see the cause of degradation over a specific time-frame, “we are making agriculture recommendations more precise through nanosatellite field images understanding soil degradation over time-period that helps us design and prescribe crop modelling techniques that improve soil quality by AI Agronomist engine using ML over the large database for historic crop and soil data as well as real-time field information.”
Designing a simple solution for India
Lalit shared how challenging it can be to develop an India-centric solution and how he and his team were able to circumvent the challenges.
Lalit explained, “India is a land of challenges and challenges and problems bring opportunities. There are a lot of farmers who now use laptops and tablets. In terms of hardware, our device is plug and play and it doesn’t require any technician for setup like other IoT offerings. They simply need to dig the land and insert the machine there, and turn it on. Our device works on the cellular network which doesn’t require any high end infra like Wi-Fi.”
Satisfaction for helping the farming community
Even though he’s several years of his life abroad, he decided to come back to India to give to the community he hails from. He shares how receiving positive feedback from farmers motivates him to work harder, “The biggest satisfaction I got from this venture is that I satisfied my community of farmers, other farmers around the work we working. Their feedback and improvement in productivity is our biggest satisfaction.”