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From smart water pumps to drones: Technology is changing Indian farms!

Alok Kirloskar, Executive Director, Kirloskar Brothers Limited

Apr 30, 2019 11:59

Disruptive technologies and innovations in application engineering are fast changing farming practices in India. From preparing the land to sowing, to reaping and mentoring of the crop, everything today can be done with the aid of sophisticated technology driven systems.

Irrigation also has become highly evolved with sophisticated fluid management systems that are well suited for meeting the challenges of bringing fresh water to the farmer’s fields, irrespective of the location, and providing him a complete control over his available water resources.

These hi-tech pumps systems are ensuring supply of adequate and timely potable water to farms in the recesses of the country, notwithstanding the challenges such as difficult terrains or steep gradients, fluctuating or inadequate water pressure, water sources with high impurities, high iron and chlorine content and unplanned irrigation leading to water shortage and wastage.

On the other hand, precision agricultural technology, such as those used in drones, is aiding farmers to better plan and monitor their crops, to ensure greater productivity.

The most remarkable factor about these new-generation farm technologies is that they are completely indigenously engineered and manufactured, hence affordable, widely available and easily serviceable.

water management solutions

Wastage of unmonitored irrigation water is the highest cost contributor for the farmer through the crop production cycle. Further, water shortage and water management challenges are so grave in India that it has led to hundreds of farmer suicides over the past few years.

The extent of mismanagement of irrigation resources in India can be gauged from the fact that our famers use 2-4 times more water during a particular food crop cycle as compared to China or Brazil. In fact, the agricultural sector uses up to 78% of fresh water available in the country, the highest among other sectors.

While most farmers depend on rainwater for cultivation -- India has among the world’s largest areas under non-irrigated (rain-fed) agriculture. The truth is, nearly 65% of rainwater in India is not even harvested and runs off into the sea.

Water scarcity is emerging as the greatest challenge for the future of the human kind. Several reports suggest that by 2050, in India the per capita availability of water will decrease by 40-50%. With water shortage of clean, potable is increasingly becoming a reality sooner than later, such smart farm technology solutions will enable the country to find better water conservation solutions in our farms to deal with the impending future crisis and also ensure better planning of distribution of the available water resources.

Smart pump systems coming to the rescue

India has developed its own world-class engineering capabilities in water management systems by leveraging disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things, AR/VR and 3D printing. These are the new-gen pumping systems that are capable of meeting the diverse challenges in water supply to farms.

With depleting ground water levels, today farmer faces challenge of getting clean water from borewell. The power supply in many villages is irregular and still fluctuates, which makes it difficult for the farmer to pump up water from deeper borewells. Also, water so acquired is not clean and could potentially damage crops.

The new-gen pumps are equipped to function normally even on low voltage. There are pumps that are suited for meeting sprinkler & drip systems in farms where pressure can be controlled. Some are fitted with chlorination technology designed for improving the quality of water delivered through the pump.

How disruptive technologies making a difference

The technology blueprint of these smart pumping systems uses a combination of disruptive technologies. Besides IoT, latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) and 3D Printing are being used to innovate across the entire length and breadth of production– right from the design, manufacture and deployment, to remotely monitoring and operating these systems and lastly to offering seamless and faster after-sales services.

Knowledge-based software that is built on over a century’s experience in water management are today being used to come up with precise solutions for the farmer, specific to his farm’s location, farming practices and availability and quality of fresh water resources .

Smart pumps automate and understand the specific water requirement and thus save this critical resource water. The IoT enabled pumps have given farmers full control to operate the entire system from his mobile phone – set the quantity of water to be pumped and time of watering his field and also get a real-time report of the critical health parameters of the pump system.

Servicing of the pumping systems is revolutionized as well with the use of IR and VR technologies, the farmer is now being guided and trained to service his own pumps, irrespective of the model and the make, sitting right on his field. 3D printing has also made the pumps more efficient and cost-effective by making the designing process faster and more precise. Replacing a part now takes only hours compared to many days earlier due to 3D printing based designing that expedites the entire process from design board stage to production line.

Fortunately, for our farmers, technology is being used to make lowest life-cycle cost pumping systems, which are more long-lasting, low-maintenance and resilient, and hence cost effective in the long run.

The agricultural industry is also adopting precision technology to improve productivity. Among various precision agricultural technology, drones are making a very prominent mark. Data on precise crop health can be monitored and recorded regularly using drones. Farmers can immediately intervene, when required, thus ensuring better production.

Conclusion

Heavy investments are being made in R&D efforts today, particularly focused on the development of such hi- tech yet cost and energy-efficient farm solutions that are suitable and convenient for all.

By deploying smart pumps, the farmer is able to save on a critical resource and reduce his cost on water drastically. Without the need to be present 24x7 to monitor his watering systems also frees-up his valuable time to attend to other important tasks such as buying or selling in mandis or in acquiring knowledge for better farming practices and improving his yield.

Adaption of drone technology in agriculture is leading to ease of the process of production and enhanced productivity, both in terms of quality and quantity.

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Author

Alok Kirloskar

Executive Director, Kirloskar Brothers Limited

Alok Kirloskar

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