There is always call for building smart machines for agriculture, machines with high end computing capabilities, image processors, Data analysers, series of sensors and micro-controller based precision actuators. Yes, they are needed and the need is definitely high seeing the complicated use case and requirements agriculture demands, say it from simple tilling to plucking ripe fruits.
Agriculture in India is very labour oriented industry. The next level of machines need to be smart to replace them completely. And by meaning smart I mean really smart. Man has reached moon but humanity is yet to find solutions for tapping rubber from a rubber tree. The interventions in agriculture are mostly idea driven not technology driven, and that may be the reason. We just cannot pump in technology mindlessly (as in cellular sectors), but got a greater call to integrate them on foundation of well-defined concept. The machine has to be the eye and ear of a labourer to sense the subject, the skin to feel the fruit and brain to optimize the action to accomplish the task once done by labour.
But there is a greater challenge, how reliable can these smart machines be made. An agro machine never has the liberty of being in an air conditions space, enjoying dust free and smooth environment. In contrast it receives the hammers of almost all elements of “Panch Tatva”(earth-air-water-sky-fire). It has to be as strong as construction equipment at same time as smart as a smartphone.
We are having our machine (Landpro) tested in different fields and among different farmers. We have crossed 100 hrs without a breakdown and that is an achievement. We give it farmers to test it in their farms without our supervision for their familiarity with the machine. Now one farmer just used it for two weeks, satisfied and then stationed it in an open for another two weeks.
When we came back for the machine, we were startled at the amount of vegetation grown inside out of the machine, and that too in just two weeks. Yes the machine is running fine but what made me wonder is if there had been a “a Micro controller “what is the level of shielding I need to give to stop the vegetation growing among its capacitors. And similarly more difficult shall be in maintaining the reliability and uncompromised precision we are claiming to offer when all force of nature is attacking our smart machine.
Yes there is call for smart machine in agriculture but greater is the call to act smarter when we are building, understanding the present and delivering for the future.