This start-up's satellite-based crop monitoring for farmers is out of the world! Literally

Farmonaut is a start-up that is based out of Bengaluru and is working very hard with several farmers across India to help them pre-determine crop diseases with the power of their satellites sensors
In the farm | (Pic: Farmonaut)
In the farm | (Pic: Farmonaut)

Indian farmers have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to agriculture. But predicting the onset of any disease surely doesn't fall in their realm. So where the farmer falls short, technology can come in handy. When Ankur Omar saw technology contributing to the agricultural sector first hand while studying Telecommunications at Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Barcelona, the only thought that loomed large in his head was, 'Why not in India?'. This germ of an idea was planted in December 2017 and grew into what is now known as Farmonaut in April 2018.

Akash and Ankur Omar | (Pic: Farmonaut)

But before we get to the technology Farmonaut uses, let's find out what was the problem they were trying to solve. "Whenever Indian farmers encounter a problem in terms of disease in plants, they consult local shop owners, who might or might not have their own vested interests while recommending pesticides or anything else," explains the 26-year-old. But how will the farmer verify the information they get?

So the first task this Bengaluru-based start-up set for themselves was going through the official database provided by the government regarding approved chemical solutions that can be administered for a certain disease, the optimum quantity and so on. They structured the database, further simplified and made it available on their eponymous app, which actually serves as a social networking site for farmers. "So if the database isn't able to solve their query, they can ask other farmers in our network," explains the entrepreneur who hails from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. To break away from the language barrier, farmers can switch to languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi and more.

Images | (Pic: Farmonaut)

So, is this it? Is this what the BITS Pilani alumni meant when he said technology? No! We are just getting started with them. Because the main service that the start-up offers is satellite-based crop health monitoring. And this is not just about identifying a disease and sending a notification to the farmer about it, they show the information via a colour-coded image for easier understanding. This is how.

Here come the satellites 
When a human is unwell, they don't function as they should - the same analogy applies to plants. Sensors on satellites are used to calculate Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. Basically, near-infrared sunlight wavelengths are calculated to understand if the plant is still photosynthesising at its optimum rate and other factors as well. If not, then we know there is something wrong. "The farmer doesn't need to know the values, we just show them in which area the vegetation is not doing well or needs attention via colours," says Ankur, who started this venture with his brother Akash Omar. Via the images, the farmer can understand crop health, organic carbon in the soil, water retention and more. And this service can be availed by the farmer for just Rs 250 a month and in the duration of a month, images are shared with the farmer six times. Crops in good health are shown in light or dark green and those that need immediate attention are in red or orange. "In this way, farmers can pre-identify the impending problem," he explains. Imagine the scope! Advance identification of an onset of a disease, mindful usage of water, an understanding of which area requires more irrigation, the possibilities are endless.      

Kheti-X | (Pic: Farmonaut)

Apart from the 10,000 people who avail their services are Viswamatha Farms, Andhra Pradesh. They use 100% organic ways to cultivate crops like millets, pulses, spices and more. They have been utilising the services of Farmonaut since September 2019 with good results. Recently, they started cultivating corn and turmeric too. Similarly, there is Rahua Farm, Bihar who grow paddy.

What's new on the block?
Another latest offering is Kheti-X, an app via which farmers can rent machinery for harvesting or sowing, a different entity from Farmonaut. All farmers need to do is go to their app, request for the machine they require, book slots and a team will visit the farm to assess the amount of work and accordingly, get the work done. This was launched just last month and the start-up has over 20 farming machines that can be rented. And this service is currently available in Bihar. It was started by Samir Kumar, Dipanker Gyan along with Akash Omar, Ankur Omar.

"Currently, the colour-coded images are available to farmers once in every five days, we want to work on increasing the frequency," says Ankur about their future plans.

For more on them, check out  

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