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Solarvibes- A Revolutionary Step In Agriculture

Empowering Small Farmers with Powerful Soil and Crop Health Analysis with Smart Sensors and AI

Photo of Swathish Bellam Ravi
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Solarvibes OÜ

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

University partners: 1. Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth - Agricultural university located at Akola, in Maharashtra, India, in the Vidarbha region. The University is entrusted with the responsibility of agricultural education, research and extension education along with breeder and foundation seed programmes. 2. University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterninary Medicine Cluj-Napoca, Romania Agricultural partner: 1. Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Hungary Research partner: 1. Fraunhofer IZM, is one the world's leading institutes for applied research and the development and system integration of robust and reliable electronics.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.solar-vibes.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Berlin

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Germany

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Vidarbha region in Maharashtra state of India

What country is your selected Place located in?

India

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Coming from a farming family in India, Founder Mr. Swathish Bellam Ravi was driven by passion to put an end to the dire farming problems faced by small farmers. He holds masters in Solar Technology and Climate Knowledge & Innovation community, Germany. His main thesis was to design a sustainable solution to solve energy & water crisis in emerging countries. During this period, he interacted with over 400 farmers in India & African countries and decided to run a campaign to support farmers. End of 2017, we  successfully completed ‘Adopt a Farmer’ campaign and supported farmers with necessary technology and better quality seeds. People from 12 countries helped us raise over 50,000 € to support over 150 farmers. Narrowing down with our research on most affected zones of crop failures and suicides, we found out that every 30 minutes a farmer from Vidarbha region was committing suicide due to crop failures and drought situation. We decided to conduct our campaign there and supported 150 farmers. This was very successful and had a very positive impact locally. However the magnitude of problem still persists and just in last decade, farmer suicide rate has increased massively while many have quit farming. While our first connection to this region was by research, now we have a built a team of soil scientists, partnered with Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, one of the most reputed agricultural colleges, with extensive soil research on a wide variety of crops covering a network of over 120,000 farms. Now our methods of training farmers, capabilities of our solution has been very well optimised to cater to the entire community without laying the burden of the technology costs on the farmers. We chose this region owing to our strong partnerships, previous experience of working with farmers and actively growing network. In February 2020, we will be demonstrating our solution to farmers and soil science experts in the biggest agricultural convention in Vidarbha region.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Vidarbha is the north-eastern region of the Indian state of Maharashtra, comprising Nagpur Division and Amravati Division. The region is endowed with good agro-climatic conditions and variety of crops and cropping systems are successfully grown on agriculturally productive soils. Majority of the soils are black cracking clay soils representing semi-arid eco region. They are shallow, medium and deep depending upon the topography and are in general alkaline, calcareous and have slow to moderate permeability. Vidarbha has lush green deciduous forests which are home to a variety of flora and fauna. These attract a large number of visitors each year. There are several tiger reserves located here. The eastern region of Vidarbha contains Maharashtra's oldest National Park, the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, one of India's 39 Project Tiger Reserves. The staple diet includes wheat, rice, jowar, bajri, vegetables, lentils and fruit. Meat was not eaten much in the region until recent times. Their diet is rich in carbohydrates as initially they were occupied in labour-intensive jobs like farming. Overall under-nutrition amongst children, adolescents and ever married women in Vidarbha region is substantial and it did not differ much between different socioeconomic groups. However, severe under-nutrition amongst all these groups is only moderate. Mainstay of agriculture here is Black gram, Green gram, pigeon peas and chickpeas, most of these crops are rain fed. The main cash crops of the region are cotton, oranges and soya beans. Traditional crops are sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra) and rice. Yavatmal is the largest cotton-growing district. Gondiya is the largest rice-growing district. Gondiya is known as rice city in Vidarbha.  Due to a number of reasons like low rainfall, lack of irrigation, low micronutrients in soil, etc. the living conditions of farmers in this region are poor compared to India as a whole. There have been more than 200,000 farmers' suicides in Maharashtra in a decade, of which 70% being in the 11 districts of Vidarbha region. Vidarbha has recently become infamous for a large number of farmer suicides. Folks near the coastal region were involved in fishing activities in Maharashtra. But over the years, many places have been developed and industrialised, giving rise to various business and job opportunities to the people. Adoption of Bt cotton (nearly 100%), which is more sensitive to shortage of water in a region without assured irrigation and irregular rainfall, has made cotton cultivation a high risk –high cost cultivation system in Vidarbha. About 14 lakh hectares of the region is under cotton cultivation and nearly equal under soybean. Farmers had opted for soybean in order to gain better prices as cotton prices were dismally low.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

97321

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

26000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Food security for current and future population is a major threat in Vidarbha region and infact the whole country. The main reason for a successful and diverse crop cultivation was nutrition enriched soil, tropical weather, abundant rainfall and surface water. During the last decade, rainfall has reduced significantly, groundwater reserves has either been contaminated with excess chemicals or left to dry. Types of crops have reduced and over half a million acres of farmland has lost its soil structure. A land once most known for cotton cultivation has seen a huge decline in cotton production among many other crops such as pulses, horticulture, soy beans, etc. Lack of rainfall, unregulated farm chemicals & seeds, excess usage of water and pesticides has caused this damage. Quantifying soil and crop requirements is a huge challenge for such a large mass of micro farmers lacking knowledge of modern farming practices. The policies surrounding these support schemes do not have the necessary infrastructure to seek validation or have not been able to pinpoint the problem in mass scale implementation. Seeds and chemical fertilizers introduced during the green revolution required a lot more water and agro chemicals. Farmers switched from organic methods which changed the face of agriculture and has driven away the youth workforce to seek alternative life supporting jobs. Farmers switched from multi cropping and mixed cropping to mono cropping. This led farmers to spend more money on operations and resulted in diminishing profits. This change did not cause economic instability, but also nutrition and dietary imbalance. Government policies have so far focused on controlling the damage and support soil sequestration programs through direct approach. However this lacks to consider implementation of rain water harvesting & water conservation methods, efficient pumping systems, unreliable electricity supply, a robust infrastructure for farmer communication and standardised financial support system. Today there is a huge gap to be filled in this value chain in order to eradicate the above mentioned barriers. Working on the field in this region, our partners at Dr. PDKV have conducted various training and demonstration programs to educate farmers with safe and soil friendly farming practices. Introducing farmers to resource efficient soil friendly practices is the only way we will be able to feed an estimated 2 billion people in India by 2050. All regions are estimated to have over 30% higher population compared to 2020. This requires us to build a strong policy framework over natural resource consumption, seeds, agro-chemicals usage, promote organic & natural farming methods. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Solarvibes was started with an ultimate vision to empower farmers and rural community. Coming from an agricultural background, rural life experience and specializing in Solar photovoltaics, Mr. Swathish Bellam Ravi started designing power systems for solar pumping. This is when we realised that the biggest gap in this chain was crop & soil health analysis in real time. Primary goal of Solarvibes is to bring affordable, robust and independent soil testing to the hands of every farmer. We strongly believe that this will be the single most important factor in building a smart farm community or a smart village. As a result of our research, we have developed the world's most accurate and dynamic sensor based precision farming system which can measure key parameters such as nutrients, Soil organic carbon, soil moisture, temperature, electrical conductivity, pH, solar irradiance and micro weather. Our sensors are solar powered and independent, designed to work in extreme weather conditions and qualifies for IP66 durability and German precision of parameter measurements. It works in remote areas due to our efficient IoT network which creates mini communication networks of approximately 10 to 20 KM radius.

Our immediate goal is to use the infrastructure we build so far to slowdown contamination & depletion of ground water, gradually stop crop failures occurring due to improper farming practices, reduce the usage of excess chemicals, cut down operating costs, improve the crop quality and productivity. By conducting soil & crop health diagnostics in real time, we can help farmers with analysis of soil structure, organic carbon, nitrate, potassium, phosphorus and irrigation management. Optimising the quantity has given us significant results of saving over 50% of fertilizers, saving over 30% water and energy. Productivity in fields have shown us results between 12 to 18% and doubled farmer's revenue in one season. Profit increased nearly 200$ per hectare. Currently, our unique advantage is in the dynamic crop database and inbuilt crop intelligence and deep learning based health analyzer predicts in advance any nutrient deficiency, pest attack or diseases to take preventive measures. Meaning, this will help farmers solve an issue of pest attack at an early stage with 5 kilograms of pesticide for a small area of the field rather than using 30 kilograms for 1 hectare. Our crop intelligence is created to provide each farmer with accurate crop- soil- geography compatibility and provide decision support system (DSS) and recommendations which are very soil and crop specific. With a long term vision of creating smart villages that can feed the world and restore balance to the ecosystem, first step is to instill hopes among farmers by creating awareness and demonstrating the power of AI and smart devices.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

With our solution it takes 5 to 7 farming seasons or 24 months for soil to restore its fertility when treated with care. With the efficiency of our AI and sensors increasing, we will be able to cut down the transition phase of a chemically treated soil to natural methods of crop cultivation without need for chemical intervention. Government of India has been promoting Zero budget natural farming for last two years. Most farmers are not able to switch directly as soil microbes, organic carbon content, nutrients have to be gradually increased. Additionally, the soil- crop compatibility feature will be introduced as a dynamic crop analyser assisting farmers to grow diverse varieties of crops. These features are being carefully developed to tackle farm problems in a scientific based approach involving key findings and inputs from local agricultural research centers and institutions. At Solarvibes we designed this community based business model with local agricultural research institution playing a key role. This also serves as a safe and faster platform for research organisations to publish their findings easily and monitor's farmers practices closely and guide them for improvements wherever necessary. The real time monitoring throughout the season helps us to analyse the quality of the food produce and estimate the yield. This will make our farmers a reliable choice for the buyers and our reports will be downloadable for farmers to show it for certification or buyers and get a fair price for the crop. As an added benefit, farmers in the region will be able to get insurance for crop losses occurring due to natural calamities. Introducing such a impact driven solution will help the farmers to become more self sustainable and build a healthy community. To match the food demand as well as eradicate malnutrition in rural areas, especially for children and pregnant woman and bolster the local economic stability, our solution provides an ideal platform.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

To reach the goals a vision, it is a must to solve the problems at the root level. Our sensors start their monitoring at the root level as a first step to take care of the soil and crop health. However, for any solution to create an impact, there should be a balance of impact, market attractiveness, financial benefits, ease of operation and most importantly reliability. Many regions in India and many other parts of developing world has undergone similar situations and seek reparation activities. With raising temperatures and sea levels, negative projections have been alarming. Awareness and education, strong community building, change in long-term behaviour are vital for any radical change to happen. When it comes agriculture and food security, Solarvibes is keen on rolling out important features, enhance the knowledge base and create an incentivized self learning platform. This platform will bring policy makers, agricultural research institution, traders, buyers, common public, farmers, food processing companies, data services and the government. There are two main reasons that calls for such a service.

1.From perspective of eradicating agricultural challenges and creating a reliable infrastructure, we need a robust and scalable infrastructure, transparency in operations of every stake holder in the value chain and equal security for all the players including the end customers who buy food from the market. To create such an ecosystem, quality of data plays a vital role in empowering the weakest yet the most important stake holder of the value chain, "The Farmer". To offset this imbalance, common people should be able to participate and support such self sustainable communities where they will be able to develop know-how on different types of crop cultivation and get to know where their food comes from and how it was grown. Validation provided through our transparent and unbiased data sources will provide better prices for farmers. This will inturn provide secure feeling for the end customer.

2. In today's world, most of the cropping patterns, seeds and agro-chemicals have become globalised, so have the problems such as pest attacks, crop deficiency, etc. While there is great among of research going on in various research centers across the globe, providing such a platform with incentive models, will enable a scientist in Australia, solve a farm problem in Vidarbha in click of a button. On one hand, it could help farmers solve their issues and on the other hand scientists can observe the results of a real time practical environment in another condition.

We have been carefully studying the Common Agricultural Policy in Europe, agricultural policy and framework on zero budget natural farming in India and African Union policies of agricultural practices. With different names, all the policies send one common message, i.e. reduce the usage of chemicals, stop contamination of water, switch to resource efficient agricultural practices. Our sensors and crop intelligence is placed in the epicenter to enable radical transition and support these policies.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

6 comments

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Spam
Photo of CEAGRO Centro de Desenvolvimento Sustentável e Capacitação em Agroeocologia
Team

Hello Swathish, we like your product and we would like to know how it works. We area an familiar farmers organization that promove healthy prodution systems. And we see that soo much fertilizers can be a damage for the soil and plants. We actually use of the leaf colors to decide when we use the feretilization. But your system can be interesting for us. We make a net work with more them 400.000 families around the Brazil. Thanks for you atention. And if you has some interesting with us, let us know in pda@ceagro.org

Spam
Photo of Swathish Bellam Ravi
Team

Thank you for your positive words. We will get in touch with you very soon.

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