Shortage of labour is one of the key challenges for farmers. Its associated costs are also huge. While mechanisation options are available for the big farmers, the small farmers do not have such options due to small land holdings. To address these issues, city-based XMachines has created a miniature tractor-like device that uses robotics and artificial intelligence to function as an able farm hand.
The machine will bring in the required precision in the farm activities. It can be used for seed and sapling plantation, micro sprays, fertilizer sprays and other chores with precision and accuracy. “It can space the seeds or saplings as instructed,” said Trivikram Kumar D, Chief Executive Officer and Product Architect of XMachines.
These can be programmed to work autonomously or controlled through a joystick, he said. The pilots, which have been taken up in collaboration with the PJTSAU, indicate that farmers will be able to save about 30% of the costs that they would otherwise incur completely depending on labour, he said.
“There is a severe shortage of labour as a result the wages are increasing. In some cases, labour from Odisha is brought in to handle the work. In many cases, the small farmers have to wait till the labour gets free from working at the large farms. This results in the window period that small farmers have for talking up farm works after rains get reduced,” he said.
Tractors cannot be used after the plants achieve a certain height. Hand tools are present but they induce a lot of fatigue to the operators due to their vibrations. Typically, the operators do not opt to have continuous operations due to that, Trivikram explained about the farm problems. However, the portable machine that the company has devised can navigate within the rows. It also saves on the fertilizer sprays as it provides only to the plants that need them. It has capabilities to identify the plant that is healthy using the available nutrients in the soil. This also helps the farmers in targeting the sprays as per needs of the plants and not as a block. “About 30 per cent of the plants in a field normally do not need any sprays. They find them from the existing soil,” he said. This can be used for chilli, cotton, tobacco and other crops.
XMachines will provide a few machines on a rental basis this crop season. It will partner with players who are already operating tractors, harvesters and other farm tools. It will observe their functioning and make the necessary changes for a wider launch next year. The machines are made in Hyderabad through a third party and it will look at its own unit when volumes support, he said.
The machines cost about Rs 2.5 lakh and loan assistance will be offered and the prices are likely to come down when volumes pick up.
“We can customise the devices to be deployed at manufacturing units, defence applications, warehouses, logistics and others. The basic concept remains the same. We even have machines that can handle 300 kg to 1.5 tonne weights,” said Trivikram. Xmachines got support from T-AIM, IIIT-H, ISB, T-Hub.