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INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (IIT) ROPAR

INDIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (IIT) ROPAR

Technology and Innovation Foundation – Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub (AWaDH)

Revolutionizing Agriculture through the deployment of a Cyber-Physical Systems

Presently, Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) hold vast potential, promising numerous advantages to propel technological advancements with far-reaching implications for various sectors, organizations, and people’s livelihoods at the grassroots level. To facilitate and harness this potential, the Indian Institute of Technology Ropar has established the Technology and Innovation Foundation (IIT Ropar – TIF) as a Section-8 company. TIF’s primary mission is to provide steadfast support to the endeavours of CPS across the Agriculture and Water Technology domains.

This led to the emergence of Agriculture and Water Technology Development (AWaDH), formulated as Technology and Innovation Hub under the framework of the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) an initiative spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India with a financial outlay of nearly 110 Crore. The Technology and innovation foundation is popularly known as iHub-AWaDH.

It is working with a mandate to support technology development, deployment and commercialisation in the domains of CPS with a sectoral focus on agriculture and water domains; facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship in the country, provide incubation and acceleration support to technology and innovation-based ideas and products towards sustainable agriculture, and the environment, by building human resource and undertaking skill enhancing activities leveraging Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and ICPS.

The organization operates with a clear mandate aimed at supporting technology development, deployment, and commercialization in the fields of CPS, with a particular emphasis on agriculture and water sectors. It actively promotes innovation and entrepreneurship within the country, offering incubation and acceleration support for technology and innovation-driven concepts and products that contribute to sustainable agriculture and environmental practices.

This is achieved through capacity-building initiatives and skill enhancement activities, utilizing cutting-edge technologies like the IoT), AI, and Integrated CPS. It’s time we need to bring focus on the amalgamation of emerging technologies with the sectoral focus areas, challenges faced and the key emerging technologies. Agriculture is a vital sector in India, supporting a significant portion of the population and contributing substantially to the country’s economy. India is primarily an agrarian society, with a majority of rural households engaged in farming activities.

It’s time we need to concentrate on integrating emerging technologies with our sectoral focus areas and addressing the challenges ahead. Agriculture holds immense importance in India, sustaining a significant portion of the population and playing a pivotal role in the country’s economy. Given that India is predominantly an agrarian society, with a majority of rural households involved in farming, it becomes crucial to explore how emerging technologies can bolster this crucial sector. We know sustainable farming is the latest reality in the market where the management of soil, crop, water, disease/ pest and waste are at the forefront.

It has often been referred to as smart agriculture or digital farming, where CPSrelated technology facilitated advancements that induced high efficiencies on farms. Since drones and satellites relay images relevant to plant health, smart sensors on tractors or harvesters have been developed, obtaining in-depth information on soil type and condition has become effortless. We arranged a freewheeling conversation with this newfangled Technology and Innovation Foundation under the stalwart leadership panel where Prof. Rajeev Ahuja, Director-IIT Ropar and Prof. Pushpendra P. Singh, Project Director / Principal Investigator, walked us through various aspects of this establishment.

AWaDH at IIT Ropar is intensely focused on deploying CPS in technology verticals such as:

• Food processing industry
• Rural development
• IoT
• Fisheries
• Fertilizer industry
• Electronic and IT
• Atomic industry
• Textile industry

For them, the driving force is designing and building successful CPS that will address many national priorities in ways traditional computer science cannot in areas as diverse as aerospace, automotive, energy, disaster response, health care, manufacturing and city management. This zeal will promote innovation and improve economic viability, allowing systems to be efficacious to reduce reliance on resources.

THE TRAJECTORY

The rapid rise of CPS technology in agriculture has been addressing the key challenges associated with the stubble burning, the environment, effect of pesticide usage on water. CPS technologies are also providing technology solutions to regional water quality-related issues, optimizing irrigation patterns using soil moisture and water quality sensor network for cost-cutting and energy conservation designing and developing an IoT enabled Harvester cum Bailer machine for Stubble Management.

To deploy effortless CPS to create a novel and sustainable agriculture system for the Indian continent by reusing the crop residues in diversified applications and optimizing land resource usage in urban areas (such as vertical farming, hydroponics, etc.) would result not only in sustainable and profitable farming but also environmentally friendly farming- is the ideology behind the inception of AWaDH- a unique vertical set-up by IIT Ropar. Here, leaders from all across the nation are developing IoT-based Farm Advisory CPS (FA-CPS) for sustainable farming practices by delivering customized advice to the farmers.

Driven by an AI-based approach, AWaDH has been intensely focused on making food production more sustainable. A Consumer-Oriented Agriculture Production matching supply-chain network is also being developed for a robust seed-to-kitchen consumer network. The CPS, a new class of engineered systems, has been effortlessly integrating computation and physical processes. Cybernetics, Mechatronics, Design and Embedded systems, (IoT, Big Data, AI and many more are encompassed technology areas.

Known to be intelligent, autonomous and efficient, CPS systems have stimulated innovation across the sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, transportation, infrastructure, security, health and manufacturing. In the form of the next paradigm shift, technology has been expected to spur growth and development exponentiallyn order to harness the potential of these spurring waves of technology and establish India as a leading player in CPS. The Union Cabinet has launched the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) with a financial outlay of Rs. 3660 Crore for five years.

With the mission to carve a robust foundation, IIT Ropar will provide a seamless ecosystem for CPS technologies that coordinate and integrate nationwide efforts encompassing knowledge generation, human resource development, research, technology and product development, innovation and commercialization. This NM-ICPS’s mission has been implemented via a channel of 25 Technology Innovation Hubs nationwide by asserting Technology advancements.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Technologies for Internet of Things and Everything (IoT & IOE), Sensors, Activators and Control, Databanks & Data Services, Data Analytics, Advanced Communication Systems, Robotics & Autonomous Systems, Cyber Security and Cyber Security for Physical Infrastructure and their applications- are the advancements they are converged on.

NOTEWORTHY OBJECTIVES OF TIH-AWaDH

At IIT Ropar, the Department of Science & Technology established the Agriculture & Water Technology Development Hub, which aims to be a technology innovation hub. Owing to the leading-edge knowledge, competency and facilities, the establishment aims to bring together potential and harness the expertise available nationwide. Thus, they have been fostering research innovation, world-class technology and product development.

The establishment’s pursuit of excellence in knowledge, competence, and state-of-the-art facilities fosters a collaborative environment that unites potential and harnesses expertise from across the nation. Through this concerted effort, they drive research innovation and advance world-class technology and product development to new heights.

Today, AWaDH has been coordinating across the country and building linkages with research institutes and labs across the country as well as abroad. While working in close collaboration with several industries for delivering commercial technology and products, AWaDH has come up with a vibrantly innovative ecosystem that offers a credible platform for tech-based start-ups as well as entrepreneurs.

The core objective with which the IIT Ropar TIH AWaDH is working spans through

• Technology development and Deployment of CPS technologies for providing solutions to the problems across the agriculture and water sector.
• Building entrepreneurship ecosystem for ICPS startups cross-cutting the application in agriculture and water domains.
• Strengthening the human resource and skill base in CPS.
• Nurturing international collaborations for cross-learning and landscaping the CPS ecosystem by taking learnings from the best practices undertaken across the globe.

R&D significance

Needless to mention the inclination toward R&D. Within the internal framework of IIT Ropar, AWaDH is a team of individuals focusing on the R & D domains such as:

• Agriculture Automation & Information systems
• Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)
• Water Treatment & Management
• Stubble Management Systems & Urban Farming
• Nuclear Applications in Agriculture & Water
• Water & Soil Assessment Processes

The faculty members at AWaDH hail from various disciplines that come together to work in a shared facility. So far, the Hub has been working across a distributed model where all stakeholders are not necessarily located but coordinating with other hubs for delivering technology and products. AWaDH encompasses six fundamental R&D domains, each overseen by dedicated domain coordinators. Within these domains, focused research and innovation efforts are diligently pursued, all aimed at cultivating cutting-edge CPS technologies. These advancements stand as instrumental solutions addressing the intricate challenges intertwined with agriculture and water-related concerns.

MISSION, VISION AND MORE

With leading-edge knowledge, competency and facilities, the institution is dedicated to attracting potential to harness the expertise available nationwide to foster research innovation, best-in-class technology and product development. AWaDH has always been on a steadfast missionEnvironmentally sustainable and profitable agriculture, quality food for all, and preserving biodiversity. The intellectually aligned team at Awadh in IIT aim to provide tech solutions to agricultural & water-related issues via deployment CPS. It avidly joins hands with entrepreneurs, industries and academic institutions through different platforms, which include Accelerator, Outreach activities, CPS Courses, Internships and SpINe (Spoke Institution Network).

A brief of all the platforms is as follows-

• AWaDH Technology development and deployment: AWaDH offers comprehensive support encompassing technology development, validation, enhancement, and commercialization. This assistance is extended to technology projects operating within the realm of CPS at the pivotal convergence of sectoral domains, notably agriculture and water. AWaDH has demonstrated and deployed number of key technologies such as Digital Entomologist, Internet of Things (IoT) Kits, Cow Health Monitoring system, Nanobuble technology amongst few to mention.

• AWaDH Accelerator – Termed as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial support that aims to “aid, counsel, assist to excel and protect” future entrepreneurs. With incubation and acceleration support, AWaDH provides all kinds of support, including Seed funding, Market analysis, Assistance from experts, One-on-One Mentoring sessions, specialized training workshops, Infrastructure support, Periodic assessment, Entrepreneurial community, Investment and scholarship.

• AWaDH Outreach: It reaches out to academics and industry via its CPS courses, internships, conferences, workshops, competitions and many other ways.

• SpINe(Spoke Institution Network): A network of institutions interested in working jointly with the research issues identified at the AWaDH to meet challenges faced by the Agriculture community from farm preparation to the end consumers. AWaDH IIT Ropar and institutes like NIT Srinagar, NIT Jalandhar, NIT Uttarakhand, IUST Awantipura, CSIO Chandigarh, GADVASU, PAU, PEC Chandigarh signed an MoU for collaboration on academic and research activities in the areas of mutual interest including collaborative research works, joint supervision of PhD students, joint workshops and seminars etc. Through this initiative, meritorious students from various colleges spend their semester(s)at IIT Ropar and pursue courses or projects in different research domains.

• AWaDH International Collaborations: AWaDH has fostered partnerships with diverse international collaborators to secure backing and jointly propel the advancement of CPS technologies within the agricultural and water sectors. Additionally, AWaDH has initiated distinctive internships and competitions in collaboration with esteemed global partners, including Dassault Systems and Energy Mentors, aimed at augmenting CPS skills and expertise.

CONTRIBUTION TO THE ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM : AWADH STARTUPS

The onset of the startup wave in the country has stimulated a fundamental shift in conventional beliefs. Entrepreneurship and innovation have become the catalysts in creating better employment and solving common people’s problems. But, the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem does face some major issues and challenges encountered by the startups in India- financial resources, revenue generation, supporting infrastructure, creating awareness in the market, lack of mentorship, lack of good branding strategy, etc. Therefore, the AWaDH incubator was launched as a collaborative program to facilitate budding entrepreneurs during their nascent stages to develop better business prospects.

The offering facilitates the entrepreneurs with aiding, counselling, assistance & protection necessary to grow. The sheer motive is to help startups combat various initial challenges that allow flourishing a hassle-free ecosystem for startups to scale greater heights. From seed funding to in-depth proper market analysis to expert assistance to specialized training workshops, the initiative supports small businesses to prosper in the best possible manner.

To endorse the entrepreneurial space with its services, the institute has been striving to add immense value in shaping the hub accordingly-

• IIT Ropar has extended its support in the form of infrastructure (land and buildings), core facilities and implementational structure.

• Aligned with the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical Systems, the iHub – AWaDH launched two flagship initiatives, SPRINT- Strategic Program for Research Innovation and Next-Gen TechCommercialisation and SAMRIDHI – Strategic Acceleration for ‘Market, Research, Innovation & Development’: a Holistic Initiative for ICPS Startups. These initiatives aim to stimulate research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in India, with a specific focus on enhancing Cyber Physical Systems in the fields of agriculture and water.Both the initiatives were launched by Honorable Minister of Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat emphaisng the budding role of investment and technology support in revolutionalising the
deep tech startup ecosystem in the country.

• The SPRINT program caters to aspiring start-up entrepreneurs, supporting existing and upcoming ICPS research ideas and early-stage innovators, with approximately twenty to thirty entrepreneurial ideas receiving funding ranging from three lakhs to twenty-five lakhs each year.

• On the other hand, the SAMRIDHI initiative focuses on existing and potential Cyber-Physical Systems start-ups, particularly in the realms of DeepTech, Hardware, and software R&D. With the capacity to support around ten to fifteen Deep-Tech startups per year, SAMRIDHI offers funding of up to fifty lakhs for each start-up. These endeavours propel the growth of research, innovation, and technological advancements in the critical sectors of agriculture and water, bringing prosperity and progress to our nation.

• AWaDH has portfolio of 22 Startups as presented below working in the field of sustainability:

• On August 12, 2023, IIT Ropar successfully conducted SAMRIDHI Conclave launched by Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Secretary, SERB and Overall Incharge of NM-ICPS and Dr Ekta Kapoor, Mission Director, NM ICPS, DST, GoI to provide a facilitative platform for accelerating the deep tech startups in domain of agriculture and water, with an impact in driving the Deep Tech Startup Revolution and resulted in

– 5 Startup (Product) Showers
– 13 Startup pitches, selected out of 329 applications.
– 15 MoU inked
– 29 Startup Technology Exhibitions
– 5 panel discussion, with 30+ speakers
– 46 Investment Partners
– 80+ Jury / Experts and Delgates
– 110+ total partners
– 550+ Stakeholders and Individual joining the program

Through the SAMRIDHI Initiative, AWaDH is offering substantial support to deep tech startups operating in the Agriculture and Water Domains. These startups stand to benefit from both financial backing, with amounts extending up to 4 Crore INR, as well as technical assistance. Expanding on their commitment, AWaDH has also established collaborative partnerships with Technology Innovation Hubs (TIHs) at prestigious institutions such as TIH for IoT at IIT Bombay, AI4ICPS at IIT Kharagpur, and Dristi at IIT Indore.

Together, they are orchestrating the remarkable Agri MegaEvent, ATMAN 2023. During this event, an impressive funding pool of up to 20 Crore INR will be made accessible to startups focused on agricultural technology. This convergence of resources reflects a significant stride towards propelling innovation and sustainable development within the agricultural sector.

WHY THE FOCUS ON CPS?

In terms of agriculture, CPS can address multiple issues, such as the impact of stubble burning on the environment and carving a framework to assess the impact of burning and assessment of pesticide utilization of the groundwater. This system provides a technology solution that can cater to the regional water qualityrelated issues where irrigation could be optimized by utilizing soil moisture and water quality sensor network to save energy and cost, design and develop affordable machines, techniques and policies to counter the blazing issues and come up with an IoT enabled Harvester cum Bailer machine for Stubble Management.

CPS could prove to be revolutionary to develop novel and sustainable agriculture systems for the Indian continent where reusing crop residues (such as bio-char development or paper making) and optimising land resource usage in urban areas (such as vertical farming, hydroponics, etc.) would prove to be a keen, profitable and environmentally friendly step towards the modern-day farming. In sync with the above statement, AWaDH is developing an IoTbased Farm Advisory CPS (FA-CPS) for sustainable farming practices where farmers will be provided with customized advice on sustainable farming.

Also, leveraging AI technology, AWaDH has created a roadmap to make food production more sustainable while developing a consumer-oriented agriculture production matching supply-chain network that will ensure a robust seed-to-kitchen consumer network. As their primary measurements suggest, the presence of high-quality radio-contamination/ heavy metals that have been naturally or artificially infused in the soil and water contaminates the entire food chain that causes innumerable health issues in the human population.

In this direction, CPS for accurate mapping of naturally occurring and artificially infused radioisotopes in soil and water could prove to be an effective strategy to remediate and a CPS for the optimized fertilizer application. Via these data-integrated assessment systems, transparency of chains, integration of nutritional and environmental properties and construction of personalized nutrition technologies could be harnessed to induce quality food production. With the current environmental crisis, there is a dearth of nature preservation mindset where the contribution of the ecosystem to the survival and development of mankind as well as economy should be acknowledged.

Hence, it’s high time to develop and mainstream natural capital. This has propelled them to develop- World’s First Digital Entomologist Network that will perform the groundwork for nature-based solutions (NBS) to support vital ecosystem services and biodiversity. Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Cyber-Physical Systems (AI-CPS) are crucial tools for any organization to scale their respective conservation efforts. The purpose of these systems is to properly monitor wildlife, combat poaching, and simulate ecological interventions to preserve the overall biodiversity.

AWaDH CPS Outreach

The institution connects with various communities across the country, including the academic & industry, with an array of initiatives like CPS courses, UG & PG Internships, Internship carnivals, Conferences, Workshops and Competitions. It has created magnificent differences across various sections of society, such as students, graduates and industry professionals, offering them a platform to learn and equip themselves with innovative technologies.

Solving societal issues related to water and agriculture, the learners get an opportunity to interact across the global ecosystem. The CPS outreach program has certainly created a pool of skilled professionals who belong to different sections of society and groom themselves to be intuitive entrepreneurs. AWaDH proudly launched its “Joy of Computing” Initiative in the past, with the intention of cultivating awareness and fostering a sense of delight among school students about Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).

AWaDH has organised and participated in national and internation conferences, workshops and conclaves to bring the necessary focus on CPS in the domains of agriculture and water domains; these are highlighted below:

• Workshop on Technology Innovation in Cyber-Physical Systems (TIPS 2.0) (06-08 April, 2023) was inaugurated by Prof. Rangan Banerjee, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi; Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Sr. Adviser, DST & Secretary, SERB; Dr Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, Axilor Ventures, Co Founder, Infosys and Dr Vivek Saraswat, Hon’ble Member (S&T), NITI Aayog.
• A 3-day international conference on Emergent Converging Technologies and Biomedical System held at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Waknaghat, Himachal Pradesh.
• A panel discussion on Agri Tech, IP and ICPS with the theme: Driving the Potential of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the expert was hosted by AWaDH on April 24, 2023, virtually.
• Organized International Training and Internship Program by IIT Ropar, iHUB AWaDH IIT Ropar TIF in collaboration with Energy Mentor, USA.
• Hosting Residential Training Program on Industrial Automation and Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intellegence and Machine Learning (AI&ML).

Collaborations: IIT-Ropar and Dassault Systèmes came together

AWADH IIT Ropar has partnered with Dassault Systèmes for an eight-week-long online internship carnival. It is a French software corporation which is well known to develop software for 3D product design, simulation, manufacturing and other 3D-related products. In this internship carnival, all internships were basically organized for designing and engineering students where the theme of the carnival was focussed on technovations along with on the agriculture and water. The participation of over 20 teams with 100 interns made the program a major hit.

Here, Dassault Systèmes provided a 3D platform on the cloud powered by brand-new applications like CATIA, SIMULIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, BIOVIA, NETVIBES and dedicated training sessions from the design and simulation experts. After the program, the winners were provided with paid internships for around 6 months at IIT Ropar that they could do as per their academic schedule and convenience.

The prize winners were offered travel reimbursement and a free stay at IIT Ropar to explore future collaboration possibilities with the mentor faculty members to encourage and enable extensive interdisciplinary research in the domains of Agriculture and Water. The initiative has been said to be a precursor to the Center of Excellence at IIT Ropar for the Agriculture Technology and Visualization of system-level developments and innovations.

What’s up for the future?

AWaDH IIT Ropar has always been a staunch believer in fabricating engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment. Developing and deploying CPS systems that are intelligent, autonomous and efficient, the institution expects to promote innovation across diverse sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, transportation, infrastructure, security, health and manufacturing. The core objective has always been to lay a steadfast foundation and seamless ecosystem for forming CPS technologies in the Agriculture and Water domain while coordinating and integrating nationwide efforts stimulating knowledge generation, human resource development, research, technology and product development, innovation and commercialization.

Driven by the team of highly dynamic faculties as Domain Coordinators putting the sheer focus on quality publications as the academic members, domain coordinators, and great industry leaders, every associate strives to reach the ultimate objective of the hub. AWaDH is dedicated to fostering the nationwide growth of CPS through its series of regional initiatives known as SPRINT. These initiatives include SPRINT North, West, East, and South editions. The primary goal is to cultivate widespread awareness and enhance proficiency in CPS, particularly within the realms of agriculture and water management. This strategic endeavor aims to equip individuals and communities with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively harness and apply CPS technology.

PARTING NOTE BY THE DIGNITARIES

“We have various CPS programs running in different formats, R&D going on in vast domains on a huge scale and the incubator for supporting the entrepreneurs of the future. We aspire to become the leading center in the country to design & develop Agri Cyber-Physical System for hardware development by 2024. In the years to come, we shall focus on multiplying and expanding every aspect of the Hub by creating awareness in every section of society about the CPS system, employment opportunities, and promoting entrepreneurship amongst the youth of the nation.”

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