Farmers won't have to get up in the middle of night and travel from their homes to fields to switch on the pumpset to water their crops as power is available only at that hour. Instead, they can pick up the mobile phone (or any phone, actually), punch a few keys and switch on the pumpsets. Santosh Ostwal, an electronic and electrical engineer, has developed Nano Ganesh, a mobile phone-based application that allows farmers to remotely access their irrigation pumps and enables farmers to check availability of power to their irrigation systems. And even as it promises to reduce the commute of the farmers, it has enabled Ostwal to travel to Barcelona, Spain, later this month to make a presentation before a crowd of 25,000 who will assemble there for the Mobile World Congress 2009.
Ostwal is among the 11 finalists of the Nokia Calling All Innovators competition, chosen from over 1,000 developers who answered the cellular handsets giant's challenge to think big and create mobile applications and services that can help build a better world. Nano Ganesh is, infact, a modem designed by Ostwal's firm Ossian Agro Automation, which converts signals received on a mobile phoneinto commands for the switch of the pumpset to switch on or off.
Ostwal says, "The product sits on the same starter panel as the switch and has built in mobile phone handset. The farmer who calls on the mobile phone from anywhere anytime can make sure that power is available and press the key to switch on the pumpset. Then when he feels that the crops have been well-watered, he can press another key to switch it off."
"With almost entire country reeling under an acute shortage of power, supply of electricity to agricultural pumps is most erratic and unreliable. The farmers have been forced to stay awake and wait for the power to be available to use their pumpsets. It is both expensive and risky to send a person to the field at that odd hour, but the farmer has no other option," he says.
“Nano Ganesh helps a farmer to limit the use of power to run the pump and also optimise the supply of water to his crop,” he adds. Ostwal says nearly eight years of research and development and an investment of over Rs 1 crore has gone into making Nano Ganesh possible and affordable.
“A farmer can opt for the basic model that costs him Rs 560 (for the modem) or choose from two other models which have more features and utilities and can cost upto Rs 7,500,” he says. Additionally, two handsets one permanently mounted on the starter panel and another with the farmer are required to run the application."We believe the cellphone penetration in the country is quite deep and most farmers now have a cell phone, so only one additional handset is really needed," Ostwal says, adding that the connection from which the call is made can even be a landline.
“He says there are people who offer to switch on and switch off the pumps for farmers at a cost of Rs 2,500. Thus, the payback on the investment in Nano Ganesh is obvious,” he suggests. “More importantly, the application is built on technology that the farmers are anyway using,” he says.According to Ostwal there are about five lakh farmers in Maharashtra alone who are suffering due to the shortage and unreliability of power and the number nationally can be around 2 crore. "Even industries that pump water can also benefit from the technology," he says.
In Barcelona, Ostwal will be brushing shoulders with people who have been selected for projects in mobile technology application that aim at making life easier. His entry is in the emerging markets' category.