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Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur Launches Portable Soil Testing Device

The Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) recently developed a portable soil testing device that can detect soil health in 90 seconds through an embedded mobile application. The technology, called BhuParikshak, aims to assist individual farmers to obtain the soil health parameters of agricultural fields with the recommended dose of fertilisers. The is the first-of-its-kind invention and is based on near-infrared spectroscopy technology that provides real-time soil analysis reports on smartphones. The device has an embedded mobile application.

IIT-Kanpur has made the mobile application available on the Google Play Store. According to a news report, the device can detect six important soil parameters: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, organic carbon, clay contents, and cation exchange capacity. The mobile application has been made user-friendly through the user interface which is available in local languages. The device can test up to 100,000 soil test samples, the highest testing capability of a device.

The portable and wireless soil testing device requires 5 grams of a dry soil sample to detect macronutrients present in the soil. Once the soil is added to the 5cm-long cylindrical-shaped device, it connects itself with the user’s smartphone through Bluetooth and analyses the soil for 90 seconds. After the analysis, the results appear on the screen in a soil health report accessible on the BhuParikshak cloud service with a unique ID. The report comes with a recommended dose of fertilisers. The rapid soil testing technology has been transferred to an agritech company, which will aid in the manufacturing and marketing of the device to farmers.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India’s population. Gross value added (GVA) by agriculture, forestry, and fishing was estimated at US$ 276.37 billion in FY20. The share of agriculture and allied sectors in GVA of India at current prices stood at 17.8 % in FY20. As per a report, consumer spending in India will return to growth in 2021 post the pandemic-led contraction, expanding by as much as 6.6%.

The government has been pushing to develop technologies for the agricultural sector in an attempt to improve crop yield and double farmers’ incomes. In September, the Ministry of Agriculture signed five memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with five tech giants. Under the collaborations, the private players will conduct pilot projects to integrate digital technology and other best practices in the agricultural sector.

As OpenGov Asia reported, these MoUs are a part of the digital agriculture mission that was initiated for 2021-25 by the government to integrate emerging technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, remote sensing, and GIS technology and the use of drones and robots, etc. Establishing a digital ecosystem of agriculture needs to take a long-term view of aspects like interoperability, data governance, data quality, data standards, security, and privacy, besides promoting innovation.

A significant requirement is the adoption of a decentralised, federated architecture that assures autonomy to the service providers and all other actors and ensures interoperability at the same time. To support these projects, the Ministry is also creating a federated farmers database that will be linked to farmers’ land records from across the country and a unique farmer ID will be created. These technologies will support farmers to make informed decisions on suitable crops to grow, types of seeds to use, and the best practices for maximum yields.

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