Published: 29th September 2021
'Connect' with nature and agriculture like this team of young engineers
Harnessing the power of edge computing and AI, the team at Allskier is building smart systems to boost food security in India
Innovation sans sustainability does not hold much weight for 21-year-old Atharv Tendolkar. Allskier, a start-up he co-founded with Amit Choraria, aims to solemnise the two in a rather fruitful union. Take for example, their Agro-copter. A drone that harnesses the capabilities of the Internet of Things, edge technology and cloud computing, this device comes with an on-board computing system and a multi-camera setup, which, along with the sensors installed in agricultural fields, optimises the entire process of cultivation, right from seeding to fertilising to irrigation and harvesting. The sensors feed information into the drone, which then sends it to the cloud to be analysed, enabling farmers with a targetted, data-driven approach to agriculture, right on their mobile phones. The drone can initiate spraying pesticides if it finds that the crop needs them. Atharv claims that such automation will help boost productivity and reduce operating costs for the farmers.
“Sustainability isn’t just clear rivers and lakes,” says Atharv, who is in his seventh semester of Electronics and Communications Engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), adding, “It also means food sustainability and education. As an engineer, I have always been driven by the sustainability goals set by the UN and it is the driving force behind our innovations at Allskier.” The core team at Allskier consists of around eight ECE students from MIT who got together for a research project a year ago with Atharv acting as the lead author.
While the agricopter is a project that the team started working on after they were incorporated in June this year, their original creation, which evolved from research papers, was an underwater intelligence system called the Aqua-copter. This system was tested at four identified sites in order to understand the behaviour of the underwater species and help boost food security in the coastal regions of India. The aquatic intelligent drone reads and analyses the movements of the fishes in order to understand the rate of aeration in the water and, again, with the help of sensors, it aerates the water as required. The solution applies neatly to the Recirculation Aquaculture System (RAS) that involves artificial rearing of fish by controlling the quality of water in large cement tanks by recycling and reusing it.
Another rather riveting creation is the CareBro, which is their quirky take on scarecrows in farms. Packed with a computer vision 360-degree camera and powered completely by solar energy, it measures everything from weather parameters to intruders on the farm and acts as a central node for managing the drone and all connected resources. One such beacon can take care of an acre large farm, says Atharv.
As the start-up gradually takes shape, it has garnered a team of 24 members and is working out its funding strategies. Atharv says that he wants it to be a fully self-funded venture and they have been organising webinars to build an interest in their products and networking on sites like LinkedIn. They have presented at the Manipal Universal Technology Business Incubator (MUTBI) and are hoping to acquire seed funding if they get the approval. Apart from that, they are looking at agriculture grants from the government and also via the Start-Up India portal.
The team is now ideating with an intelligence system for plants that can help them communicate with humans, again with the help of data. Bolstered by speech processing, the intelligence system reads and analyses plant behaviour to relay its needs to humans. Atharv says that this project will help those who want to understand nature connect with it better.