IISc researchers find a solution for tomato glut

IISc researchers find a solution for tomato glut

In Bengaluru, the prices of tomatoes soar as high as Rs 80 at times and hit lows of Rs 8 a kg.

In a relief to farmers who are driven to despair when glut in the market routinely sends prices crashing, researchers have come up with a new technology that helps farmers avoid such crises.

In Bengaluru, the prices of tomatoes soar as high as Rs 80 at times and hit lows of Rs 8 a kg. Blame it on over production or scarcity, say experts.

Farmers discarding fresh tomatoes along highways or just outside their farms is not an uncommon sight. With too much of the produce hitting the market, farmers who cultivate the crop are forced to discard it as it does not fetch them enough to even cover transportation costs.

The new method developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) doesn’t require the time-consuming process of collecting data on crop cultivation and yield estimation.

In the Low Altitude Remote Sensing (LARS) system, data is gathered by drones and analysed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

Speaking about the project, Ramesh Kestur, researcher, IISc, said an unmanned aerial vehicle is deployed to gather images of a particular area. With images clearer than those from satellites, crop estimation can be done through analysis.

Here is how it works: The camera fitted on a drone captures pictures. The system is prepared for object detection. “Further, there are advances in the use of AI/deep learning for image processing. The technology advancements in UAV and deep learning enable interesting applications for agriculture,” said Kestur.

The application also gathers data by the colour gradient. With this, not only is the data about the crop gathered but also the stage of ripening could be collected.

“It has the ability to pick on the crops from a plant. This helps one get a count. The colour gradient tells us about the status of ripening,” he added.

S N Omkar, Chief Research Scientist at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, IISc, said the pilot for this has been conducted in a field in Kolar. “We did a pilot on mango and the results are great,” he said.

Omkar explained that as it would not be viable for individual farmers to purchase drones, it is suggested that district authorities use it to gather information and send alerts.