At first sight, Ishan Malhotra is like any other high school student—passionate about science and innovation. From papier mache guns to remote-controlled drones, Ishan has tried his hand at building a variety of devices through his time in a Jaipur school.
However, the class XI student from Jayshree Periwal International School in Jaipur has taken his love for innovation to the next level by developing a device called Pluto, which helps farmers connect their water pumps to their phones—even basic mobile phones and landlines.
Once connected, this device lets farmers control the water pump remotely.
Why is Ishan interested in building devices for farmers?
“It all started when I was visiting my maternal grandmother’s old house in Sirsa, a small village in the Jaipur district. Over there, I spent ample time with the locals—farmers, children etc. They told me about some of the troubles they face on a daily basis. Amongst them, the biggest was water management.
They told me that every day, a farmer or his son or his daughter would have to wake up early in the morning at around 5:00 a.m., and walk a long distance to other fields just to turn on a water pump. Perturbed by the energy and time they were wasting on a daily basis, I felt something needs to be done to help them,” says Ishan, speaking to The Better India.
Constructing Pluto, however, had its share of technological and logistical challenges.
“We had to find capacitors that didn’t blow up with varying amounts of power and a mobile connection that receives network even in remote areas. As some pumps in the village are triple phased and others are single or double phased, we had to deliberate on which types of components we’d use, types of relays, etc. We solved these problems after a lot of hits and misses. In the end, not only were we able to find a concrete solution but we also learnt a lot in the process,” says Ishan.
Initially, Ishan built a prototype and tested the device at his grandmother’s house. However, Ishan knew that if he were to test his product on another farmer’s plot of land, it would have to work well without any glitches, considering the aversion some have to new technology. Thus, after a lot of trial and error, Ishan came up with a version of Pluto which he went on to test in other surrounding villages.
“When we tested it in my grandmother’s village, farmers were still hesitant to adapt to it. Hence, to overcome this issue, we first had to install Pluto in the Sarpanch’s (village head) house. Once people saw him use it, they too believed in the product. There was also a language barrier when we tried to distribute the device. We had to take help of locals —electricians, members of the youth— to help us advertise and get our project to the villagers,” he says.
Even approaching farmers in surrounding village with his device wasn’t a simple task. “Some villages had pumps that didn’t have a proper switchboard. Hence, we had to cut their wire and make one to connect to Pluto. At some places, the farmers were reluctant to adapt to newer technology. Different locations posed different problems,” says Ishan.
Despite the challenges, Ishan has received glowing responses from farmers who tested his device. Some have even gone on to tell their relatives to also buy it. Women and old family members, who are now given the duty to turn the pumps on and off using Pluto, are now contributing to the daily work that goes behind growing crops from the comfort of their home.
Watch the video below for testimonials by farmers:
At the heart of Pluto is the concept of Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to devices on the same network that can interact with each other.
Employing this concept, Ishan was able to facilitate the process of linking water pumps that run on a motor to the farmer’s mobile network so that he can remotely control it. Pluto works using a SIM card inside, backed by an Arduino board and a GSM module. To use it, however, Ishan lays out the steps that a farmer needs to take:
• Install an activated SIM card in Pluto (any SIM card will do).
• Connect Pluto with the water pump’s contractor (switchboard) as shown in the figure below.
• Then using a phone, all the farmer needs to do is call on Pluto’s mobile number to use it.
• To turn the pump on, a farmer calls, and after two rings Pluto will pick the call. After that, the farmer has to dial 1111 on the keypad to turn the pump on. To turn the pump off, the farmer needs to dial 2222 on the keypad.
• Pluto has three bulbs to inform the user about different things. The green one glows when electricity is flowing. The yellow one indicates if the sim card is connected to the mobile network and is ready to be used. The red one glows if the motor/any electrical appliance is ON and doesn’t when it’s OFF.
Pluto comes with an instruction manual in Hindi as well, and for farmers, devices like Pluto are a godsend. For starters, instead of trudging five-seven kilometres every day, they can save time and water using Pluto.
In states like Rajasthan, where temperatures touch 50 degrees Celsius, walking in harsh climate can pose serious health hazards. Meanwhile, during the monsoons, farmers sometimes die of electrocution. With the ability to control one’s water pumps remotely, farmers don’t have to take these risks. Essentially, the device is a source of real convenience for farmers.
Ishan’s dream is to make this device available to all farmers in India. Thus far, Ishan has managed to distribute 80 Pluto devices to farmers in Rajasthan at a subsidised price of Rs 750.
Some of the additional feature Ishan would like to add to his device are—integrate seven new regional languages in Pluto so that its more accessible for the masses, insert a feature features that will give farmers weekly updates about the weather in the village and ensure farmers receive a notiﬁcation when precisely electricity is coming in the village.
Thankfully for the Jaipur boy, Dr Harsh Vardhan, the current Union Minister for Science and Technology, recommended Ishan’s device to the agriculture ministry. Ishan, however, feels that there is a long way to go.
“Although I know I will be in college the next year, I’m planning to take a gap year after the first year to solely work on Pluto to take it to the next level. In that time, we plan to work with private corporations and also take some government support to fully commercialise this product,” he tells The Better India.
If you want to contribute further to Ishan’s endeavour, please click here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)