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FarmFluence: Taking Farming Automation to Level-Next

Gaurav Shah,Co-Founder & CIO

Gaurav Shah

Co-Founder & CIO

With the population across the globe growing at such a rapid rate, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that the world will need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050. It’s no secret that the need for improving the yield in farms has become critical and more so in the country with the second largest population in the world. While moving to modern agriculture techniques like Hydroponics, which needs active & constant monitoring, is inevitable, enhancing the traditional farming methods using connected technologies is also imperative. Transforming farms to this inexorable future is FarmFluence (a registered Trademark owned by Communifi Technologies LLP) – a one-stop-shop solutions provider leveraging the industry's best sensors and controls to provide farmers with integrated monitoring & control solutions with a cloud enabled dashboard powered by AI & ML. CIO Insider interviews Gaurav Shah, the company’s Co-Founder & CIO.

In conversation with Gaurav Shah, Co-Founder & CIO, FarmFluence (Communifi Technologies LLP)

The IIoT market is expected to grow from $77.3 billion in 2020 to $110.6 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 7.4 percent. Where is FarmFluence positioned in the current agritech industry as an automation solutions provider?
IoT has become the need of the hour. Be it any sector, IoT is helping businesses to improve efficiency, quality, reduce efforts & input costs. Agriculture sector is no different. In fact, we see IoT as the most adopted technology currently in developed countries. With increasing population, shrinking cultivable land and such global pandemics creating huge market imbalance, it has become essential for farmers to adopt new technologies, use better farming techniques and change their crop selection and pattern according to market demands. This is where Agritech plays a big role. We see a huge gap when it comes to providing the right solution for the right type of farm. We aim to be an enabler in a farmer’s transformation and growth journey.

As we use IoT in the most effective way, we aim to become the most trusted

end-to-end infrastructure provider when it comes to farm automation.

How would you describe your farming automation offerings?? How smart are your solutions?
We specifically focus on building solutions for protect-ed cultivation, Greenhouses, Polyhouses, Hydroponics and Vertical Farming. Our solution comprises three major elements. (i) Sensors, (ii) Control/Automation, and (iii) IoT. Our sensors range from water monitoring (pH, EC & Temp), soil monitoring (pH. EC, NPK & Moisture), environment monitoring (Humidity, Temperature, CO2 & Lux). All these sensors perform online real-time monitoring and reporting.

Our intelligent IoT-powered controller does edge computing, stores data, makes logical decisions based on events and triggers & reports all data to the cloud

The Control or Automation part is the heart of the system. Our intelligent IoT-powered controller does edge computing, stores data, makes logical decisions based on events and triggers & reports all data to the cloud through 2G/3G/LTE/Wi-Fi connectivity. All sensors report data to this controller as well. Based on the farm design and needs, this system controls all the elements of the farm, be it motors, pumps, foggers, sprinklers, fans, grow lights or dosing systems. A classic example is that if soil reports moisture of less than 30 percent (set threshold), the system will automatically run the drip system for a pre-defined time or triggered value.

The third important element is the IoT function. All the farm sensing & data reporting are logged on a cloud dashboard for real-time visibility and control. This dashboard gives power to the farmer to directly monitor and manage his farm even remotely. This dashboard incorporates loads of features like deep analytics, historical data, crop cycle management, season management, real-time alerts, nutrition management, and also energy monitoring.

In other words, through effective use of IoT, we are making ‘connected farms’ a reality and giving power to the farmer with a one-click control solution.

Tell us about the latest farming challenges that your solutions solve for farmers? How do you find the balance between quality and affordability?
Since the farming sector continues to constantly adopt new techniques and

technologies, the farmers often face the challenge of the need for constant learning and unlearning. The traditional farmers do not feel confident in venturing into new techniques like automation or sensor-based farming due to the lack of information and knowledge to implement and operate. While it is essential to have a connected approach, the available solutions in the market, however, are not integrated, not connected, operate in individual fashion and often lead to high cost and over budgeting.

We have built a cost-effective, yet highly functional automation platform for almost all types of farming needs. We help farms with effective water management, energy management and resource management. This transforms to real savings, and ultimately better yield. Our product is ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in its true sense, since the complete system is designed and built in-house. More power to the grower!

Could you tell us about a challenging recent case study?
Every farm is unique in terms of its demands, design and the geography. We take every case as a challenge and understand the pain areas of the farmer which we can address with the right combination of technologies. One of our clients, a Hydroponic farm, was running with a failed automation system that was supplied by a local vendor. When they approached us first, the initial challenge for us was to convince them that automation does work if designed and implemented properly. The second challenge was the budget, since a decent amount of money had already gone into the existing setup. But with a couple of rounds of discussions and a visit to their farm, we could win their confidence and the system has been running smoothly since two seasons now. They are now looking to scale up the farm and add more sensors and controls.

What are the opportunities that you foresee? What is FarmFluence’s future roadmap?
Farming sector is one of the rare sectors that have sustained and seen growth amidst this pandemic. With people becoming more health-aware & conscious, a lot of startups getting into food aggregation, farm to folk channels and food processing, this space is definitely going to see a double-digit growth in coming years. Having said that, the farming sector is undergoing a major transformation in terms of technology infusion and adoption of better techniques. With the government also being focused on this sector through various schemes and assistance on offer, we deeply remain focused on building products and solutions suiting the developing economies. We aim to build and automate over 10,000 commercial farms in India itself by 2023.

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