We all are aware that the rural industry undergoes a number of hardships to provide us the final products in our daily life. Today, when we are in the era of development where everything gets automated, where we are surrounded by M2M applications based on Internet of Things, even the rural sector stands to gain from these developments to make their work easier and faster.
One of the key factor in this industry that needs our attention are the water pumps used in the irrigation of the farmlands. The farmers have to walk long distances through the hazardous areas and difficult terrains, saving themselves from some wild animals sometimes late at night to reach the water pumps. They are forced to overlook the challenges of the changing season (rain, chilling weather and scorching heat).
As they are not able to estimate the erratic power occurring due to heavy density of electricity distribution in the irrigation zones or the shock hazards due to wet areas and leakage of electricity, they get themselves hurt. These factors force the farmers to keep the motor pumps continuously ON with the use of Auto Switches, Automatic Starters and by ‘bypassing’ the overload relays of the starter. In order to help the farmers overcome these issues and to control the water pumps remotely Ossian Agro Automation has come up with a product called Nano Ganesh-GSM.
Mr. Santosh Ostwal, the CEO & Founder Director of Ossian Agro Automation Pvt. Ltd. who himself belongs to a farmer’s family spent 24 years of his life in the field of e-irrigation. An incident in his early years of childhood made an impact in his life so much so that it is now resulting into development of the rural industry. He says, “I am from a farmer’s family and in my childhood I witnessed my grandfather walking to the water pumps during night, at the age of 81. The important thing is that his right leg was cut below knee due to gangrene and he had to use a support stick to walk a distance of 1 km to the farm during midnight, just to switch on or off the pumps. I used to accompany him and asking the reason of night operations. The answer to all this was very simple – power is available only during nights nowadays and we have to irrigate half dried oranges.” An engineer by studies, Mr. Ostwal was able to relate the requirement of the rural industry and the technology for the development of e-Irrigation for rural India.
“Nano Ganesh-GSM” as it is called, is a GSM based remote controller that can be used to control a distant water pump and also to monitor it’s operation using a mobile phone. It is an M2M application that has been built appropriately for the rural irrigation system.
Although the market today has hundreds of manufacturers and electronic assemblers that provide cellular based remote control solutions for water pumps in India, the organizations that are actually working dedicatedly for the improvement of the rural industry are very few. Again, there are many small and reputed organizations in India who are attracted towards a huge market of rural irrigation automation but shut off their activities within a span of one to two years due to sustainability challenges. This caused a big loss in the electronic industry as the trust of the farmers on the technology was broken and it is very difficult to re-establish a trust for the new comers in the same area. However the dedicated work done by Ossian Agro Automation in the span of 24 years has led to the establishment and growth of Nano Ganesh.
Although Nano Ganesh-GSM comprises of a number of blocks that play an important role, only the GSM module and microcontroller are visible in addition to output stage with all other different hardware components simulated.
- GSM Modem: Different brands of GSM modules have been used without sticking to any particular one. The first version of Nano Ganesh used mobile phone as a wireless connectivity which has been replaced by the GSM module to make integrated approach of the system. Due to fact that the GSM modules are the need of the time, work in this field continued in order to build an appropriate solution of m-connectivity for the water pumps. This was an ensuring step to move towards M2M revolution in the field of mobile remote controls.
- SMPS Power Supply with battery back-up: As described earlier about rural electricity scenario, power requirement conditions for sensitive electronics goods are quite stringent. The care has been taken that the system works satisfactorily in extreme low, high and imbalance voltage conditions. An external battery with charger is provided to allow easy replacement after two to three years and hence farmers do not need to depend on anyone else for support about battery which is a proven expertise in the rural sector at the local level.
- Microcontroller and allied circuitry: Microcontroller being an intelligent device can help anyone easily optimize the system at very low cost they have an exact understanding about the field requirements and technical blocks. It helps reduce the cost of the different electronic components in the peripherals and allied logics with the use of simple software commands. It intelligently replaces hardware logics built with diodes, transistors etc by the simple software simulations.
- DTMF decoder: This is a universal IC available in the market used for decoding the DTMF signals send from the mobile phone into the logical high levels.
- Tone Generator: Tone generator is also a low cost astable mode clock wave generator built around IC 555 and effectively used to deliver different tones using a single IC and multi switching logics.
- Driver stage and relay with isolation circuits: Driving the output relay requires special skills as it is very much important to prevent the resetting of the microcontroller circuit when the system is in high power application. Optical isolator circuits have been built around standard things available in the market.
- Output sensing stage: It is important for the farmer to understand whether the pump is really ON or OFF after sending the ON command. Many systems in the market provide a feedback from the MOTOR ON RELAY as soon as it is activated from the microcontroller command. This is a virtual acknowledgment before the pump starts. There is a possibility that due to low voltage or single phasing, Auto Switch does not start the pump and still he gets the feedback of MOTOR ON. Nano Ganesh – GSM actually senses the output voltage of the starter and converts the signal into the digital level with the help of voltage converters. Hence, farmer gets the MOTOR ON SMS or call only after the pump has been physically started and picked up.
- Infra red sensing and processing stage: It is a special pair of infra red diode circuitry to sense the opening of the panel door and physical movement of the person standing in front of the panel. This component allows farmer to get an alert call when unauthorized person opens the door. A pair of infra red Tx-Rx (transfer and receiver) is a low cost solution to achieve this utility.
- Antenna for GSM modem: As the whole system is installed inside the metal box, there is a strong need to boost the GSM signals with adequate matching antenna. There are so many GSM modems available in the market which provide antenna by just winding a coil of 14/36 SWG wire without appropriate connectors. Due to this, 80% of the transmitted and received signal power is wasted or leaked. To provide strong signals irrespective of low GSM signals in the rural area, a 50 ohm matching antenna and circuitry is incorporated in the antenna stage. Even for the length of 10 cm cable of antenna which carries signals from module to the connector, a properly designed R-C network with matching cable has been adopted.
Layout and Operation
Nano Ganesh- GSM is a wireless controller that receives the controlling demands from the farmer’s mobile phones. The controlling demands may be to turn the motor on or off, or to check the status of the power or the load. The GSM modem is installed in the starter panel which are normally made of galvanized or M.S. Sheets and are placed outdoor in the farms or near the water pumps. The unit contains a simple hinged door for the panel to secure it with lock and key arrangement. It also has an external antenna for the GSM unit. The power supply to the GSM unit is supported with additional battery back-up and the unit also contains relay contacts in order to control the no volt coil of the starter or auto switch. It is equipped with Auto/Manual switch in case of emergency need of irrigation. There is also an infra red sensor installed in the starter panel so that whenever a panel door is opened, an alert SMS or call is sent to the farmer’s mobile phone.
Mr. Ostwal says, “The Nano Ganesh – GSM unit comprises of state-of-the-art life tested technology for providing a feedback of power or load on-off status with the help of simple audio tones, hence making system linguistic free.” The GSM unit easily connects to the starter panel with one of it’s wire connected to the starter input and the other one to sense the status of the Load. Whereas the other control connection of the unit goes to the starter No Volt coil of the Auto Switch. It also has a neutral or an earth wire that must be connected to the GSM unit in order to generate 1 Ph, 230 Volts power supply.
As we have already gone through the layout, understanding its working should not be difficult. However before starting the pump, a farmer needs to check the availability of the power at the pump by m-connection. Thus with the help of his mobile phone, yes the same mobile phone that uses in his daily life, he connects with the GSM unit and if there is adequate power, he hears a simple audio tone of 400 Hz on his mobile phone. On the other hand, if there is no adequate power then no tone is heard. Once confirmed on the status of the power supply, he presses the START CODE digits on his mobile phone which sends DTMF tones to the GSM units. GSM unit decodes the DTMF tones and switches on the electromechanical relay inside the unit. A MOTOR ON relay triggers the Auto Switch to start the water pump. Auto Switch ensures healthy starting of the water pump by taking care of the adequate phase sequence and single phasing fault. As soon as water pump starts, a feedback is sensed by MOTOR ON terminal of GSM unit and a farmer hears a vibrating tone of MOTOR ON and then he hangs off. This task is completed in few seconds. After irrigation is finished, farmer does the same operation for switching off the pump. He calls, checks the PUMP ON and then presses a STOP CODE on his mobile phone. A relay inside the GSM unit is switched off and hence the starter. As soon as the pump turns off, a 400 Hz tone is heard by the farmer confirming that the power is there but motor is switched off.
In case of any sudden failure in the power while a pump is running, Auto Switch immediately stops the water pump and an alert call or SMS is sent to the farmer’s mobile phone. As soon as adequate power is resumed at the pump end, an alert call or SMS is again sent to the farmer’s mobile phone. Important point to note is that if anyone opens the door of the panel, another alert call or SMS is sent avoiding any theft or anyone malfunctioning the operation of the system. Hence, due to multiple functions of m-connectivity with the water pump, a farmer can monitor the pump operations 24×7 from any distance without physically going at the pump area.
Installation of one Nano Ganesh affects atleast 8 people in the village (a farmer, his family, an operator, local technician, local dealer, etc that form the BOP). I has both social as well as economical impact on the rural industry.
- Convenience of pump operations makes farmers, operators and their families stress free..
- Laborers are freed from poor, exhaustive work, addicted life and save their time.
- Families have become mobile literate..
- Farmers have upgraded their work of marketing and other developments of the farms.
- Saving in fuel expenses and operator costs.(USD 500 per year)
- Technology Division bridged, flow from rural to urban will be greatly stopped.
- Standard of living of BOP (base of pyramid) improved due to m-connected with the world, market etc..
- Creation of a business opportunity for local traders, businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Rural Employment opportunities created in different areas like installation, repairing, courier, training, demonstrations etc. Many rural technocrats, radio mechanics, mobile technicians etc. got an additional income source.
If a farmer invests INR 5200 in Nano Ganesh – GSM unit, he would save INR 18000 in fuel, INR 12000 in water, INR 4500 in electricity, INR 1200 in soil in one year.
Challenges came at different steps from creation to monetization. The biggest challenge in this industry was to understand the requirement of farmers and to create a product that should resolve their problem. Then there was a requirement of proving the technology on the field. The prototype that was developed in the small laboratory had to be trailed and tested on the field to find out it’s actual performance. As per Mr. Ostwal, “It needed my own technical tours in the villages during day and nights. The challenges of accessing the pumps were the challenges for me too. I had to carry the whole stuff of electronics instruments; trial circuits etc. to the water pumps sites by a two wheeler to the distance of 50 to 100 kms from my city, Pune. Sometimes, I had to walk down a distance of 3 to 4 Kms where there was no proper road for the two wheeler. In Pune, my wife and two children worried as I had not arrived in time and there was no mobile communication available. I visited about 2400 sites in my initial 12 years of e-irrigation life.”
Then there were other challenges like power supply, unavailability of technical assistance, institutes not ready to provide any funds and the farmers not understanding the value of the product. These were few initial challenges however they increased during the expansion of the product. Heavy cost in promotion advocacy, creation of the simplest design for farmers, building confidence for using GSM modem, different power requirement in different seasons and different regions due to scarcity of water, educating the rural sector, low cost requirements, multi flavoured market requirements.
Though a product has been developed with a motive to control the water pumps, there are so many market segments based on location, season, cultivation, education, gender, finance etc where it can be easily used. Mr. Ostwal explains, “We are focusing on the lift irrigation water pumps market which is facing challenges in controlling and monitoring the water pumps. Along with them, we are also focusing on the rural irrigation systems in every villages for drinking water supply. Starting with one state initially, and subsequently adding number of states we are going to reach in 9 states of India in coming five years.”
It is a finished product for the current business model, but going to be changed aesthetically for the mass demand in the coming time. Mr. Ostwal confirms, “We may not add any additional features but certainly a product will be made as per the international standard for meeting the global demand.”
Sneha A is a Technical Journalist at EFY Gurgaon