AI-enabled robotic machines come in handy for farmers

Posted: Posted Date – 11:50 PM, Fri – 15 Jul 22

Hyderabad: Labor shortage is one of the main challenges for farmers. Its associated costs are also enormous. While mechanization options are available for large farmers, small farmers do not have such options due to small land size. To solve these problems, city-based XMachines has created a miniature tractor-like device that uses robotics and artificial intelligence to function as a skilled farm worker.

The machine will provide the precision required in farm activities. It can be used for planting seeds and saplings, micro-spraying, fertilizer spraying and other tasks with precision and accuracy. “It can space seeds or saplings as directed,” said Trivikram Kumar D, CEO and Product Architect of XMachines.

These can be programmed to operate autonomously or controlled via a joystick, he said. The pilot projects, which were launched in collaboration with the PJTSAU, indicate that farmers will be able to save around 30 percent of the costs they would otherwise incur entirely on labor, he said.

“There is a severe labor shortage and wages are rising. In some cases, Odisha’s workforce is brought in to manage the work. In many cases, small farmers have to wait until labor is freed from work on large farms. This translates into the window period small farmers have to talk about agricultural work after the rains reduce,” he said.

Tractors cannot be used once the plants have reached a certain height. Hand tools are present but they induce a lot of fatigue to the operators because of their vibrations. Typically, operators don’t choose to have continuous operations because of this, Trivikram explained of the farm’s problems. However, the portable machine the company has dreamed up can navigate the rows. It also saves on fertilizer sprays because it only supplies the plants that need it. It has the ability to identify the healthy plant using the nutrients available in the soil. It also helps farmers target sprays based on plant needs and not in blocks. “About 30% of the plants in a field don’t normally need spraying. They find them in the existing soil,” he said. This can be used for chili, cotton, tobacco and other crops.

XMachines will provide a few machines for hire this harvest season. It will pair up with players who already use tractors, harvesters, and other farming implements. He will observe how they work and make the necessary changes for a wider launch next year. The machines are made in Hyderabad through a third party and he will review his own unit when volumes support him, he said.

The machines cost around Rs 2.5 lakh and loan assistance will be offered and prices are expected to drop as volumes increase.

“We can customize devices to deploy in manufacturing units, defense applications, warehouses, logistics and more. The basic concept remains the same. We even have machines that can handle weights from 300 kg to 1.5 tonnes,” Trivikram said. Xmachines got support from T-AIM, IIIT-H, ISB, T-Hub.

James G. Williams