Students invent machine with automated arm to make cotton picking easy for farmers

Team Aficionados, from Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta Institute of Technology and Management, Delhi, has invented an automated device that can pick cotton and put it into storage containers.

According to the Ministry of Textiles, cotton is one of India's most important cash crops. It accounts for around 25 percent of the total global fibre production. There are about 5.8 million cotton farmers cultivating cotton in about 11 million hectares across India. But rising costs and scarcity of farm labour, means the the Indian cotton growing industry, the second largest in the world, is is need of mechanisation.

To help cotton farmers, Team Aficionados has developed a machine with a cotton-picking automated arm. The arm can pluck cotton from a plant, and store it in a container, which can be a boon to farmers. The innovation was unveiled at the Smart India Hackathon 2019 (hardware edition) held at a nodal centre, Dayananda Sagar College of Engineering, Bengaluru. The team shared the prize money of Rs 50,000 with Team Surgical Strike for their innovation.

Team Aficionados was inspired by the problem statement of agricultural company Mahyco.

An inspired team

Team Aficionados comprises a bunch of 20-year-old engineering students from Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta Institute of Technology and Management, Delhi. The team members are Abhishek Kumar Jha (20), Varun Singh (20), Manish (20), Pooja Gupta (20), Prerna Jain (20), and Satyam Kumar (20).

They decided to develop their product after being inspired by a problem statement from Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company), an agricultural company based in India. “When we saw the problem statement, our team members came up with this technique to pick cotton," says Abhishek, the team leader.

The product is aimed at reducing the cost of cotton picking and human labour, thus increasing efficiency. The automated arm will help pick and collect cotton from cotton fields, and siginificantly ease the farmer's work.

Though there are similar devices in the market, Abhishek claims that there is no fully automated device like theirs.

Developing the product

To design the arm, the members had to switch from one technology to another. Initially, they used image processing. When they discovered that it wasn’t detecting only cotton, they had to move to deep learning to make the product "more precise".

“We also faced a problem in the arm’s movement. It was a little difficult to solve the inverse kinematics but we did it eventually,” Abhishek says.

Team Aficionados’ automated arm now uses OpenCV, deep learning, and Tensorflow to detect cotton. “The suction is done by a vacuum tube. To turn on the machine, we have used ultrasonic sensors,” the team leader says.

Abhishek says that they are yet to complete the prototype, and will make the final model once it is certified. They plan to price the equipment competitively, and launch it in the market.

The Smart India Hackathon (SIH) was launched by the government in 2017 to foster a strong spirit of innovation among young minds, especially students. It recently concluded its third chapter successfully. YourStory brings to you the stories of some amazing young minds who have taken up the challenge of solving some of the country's problems.

(Edited by Suruchi Kapur-Gomes)


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