Sense it Out Technologies

 

In conversation with Jasveer Singh, Founder and CEO of Sense It Out (June 2022)

Interviewed by N. Ramakrishnan

“You need to plan out things well,” says Jasveer Singh, Founder and CEO, Sense It Out Intelligent Solutions, a Pune-based venture that is into smart irrigation, when asked what would be his advice for founders who plan to apply for the BIG (Biotech Ignition Grant) Scheme for startups. “I got it in the third attempt. Which means that if I have to get it in the first attempt, I need to understand the market well, understand the need well and, most importantly, understand how to plan the 18 months (the duration of the BIG). Also, what is your plan to develop (your product), do you have a detailed plan and understanding whether it will be feasible or not,” says Jasveer. Ideally, he adds, the founders should plan that their projects get over in 12-15 months so that they have a cushion of those extra months in the 18-month grant period. Expenses do not stop and having that cushion is always helpful. “If I would have done that, I would have been better. If I look back and I want to tell myself, I would say this,” says Jasveer, an M.Tech in Electronics Systems from IIT Bombay.

According to him, agriculture always fascinated him and the fact that there was very little technological adoption in the sector piqued his interest more. He even experimented with growing moringa in a farm near Pune, to get a first-hand idea of the difficulties involved. His initial idea was to do something to counter the climate change crisis, which then evolved to do something on fertigation and irrigation, about whether those two critical processes could be automated. His ambitious plan was to transform agriculture, which was seen as a blue-collar profession, into a white-collar one through technology and automation. By this time, he had already registered the domain name senseitout.com. Around 2017-18, he checked out the kind of sensors that were available in the market and found that there were those cheap ones that did not last more than a few days or those that were prohibitively expensive putting them beyond the reach of a majority of the farmers. The company started developing sensors – ones that will be reliable and affordable. This is where the ₹50 lakhs grant from the BIG Scheme proved useful, according to Mr. Singh.

Sense It Out Intelligent Solutions was selected for the BIG Scheme in 2019. Prior to that it had got a ₹10 lakhs grant under the NIDHI-PRAYAS (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations – Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring technology entrepreneurs) in 2017. The company built some prototypes with the NIDHI-PRAYAS money and improved on it and made it completely automated with the BIG funds. The idea behind the product, according to Mr. Singh, was to make it easy for the farmer to irrigate his or her field without having to be physically present on the field. Most often, farmers got electricity supply on their field only at night, which meant that they had to commute to their farm on bad roads and in the middle of the night to switch on the irrigation pump. With the sensor developed by Sense It Out Intelligent Solutions, the farmers can operate the pump remotely through an app on the phone.

The whole system works like this: a farmer can buy a sensor module which has multiple sensors to measure the soil moisture at four levels. Why does the moisture
have to be measured at four levels? For the simple reason that the crop’s root zone will change as it grows and matures. The information regarding the soil moisture at different depths is available to the farmer on a mobile phone and depending on which area needs to be irrigated, the farmer can switch on the pump from wherever he or she is and just that particular valve alone. The sensor will give a signal to the controller that will be placed close to the pump to turn on and turn off the pump. The valves are wirelessly controlled. The system will cost ₹20,000-25,000.

According to Jasveer, it was Venture Center, where his company was incubated from 2017, that helped him understand what the problem was with his BIG Scheme presentation. Initially, his project tried to do too many things – fertigation and irrigation. With the feedback from the BIG Scheme committee, Venture Center helped Sense It Out narrow down the focus to just smart irrigation – something that the company was more likely to accomplish in the 18-month period. The sensors built by his company are undergoing pilots and he hopes to commercially launch the product in six months to a year. Sense It Out also received a ₹33 lakhs grant under a United Nations program. The company has done 15 installations so far and plans to do 25-30 more over the next few months before the sensors are commercially launched. At the stage of commercial launch, the company will look to raise equity funds to help in the roll out and expansion.

 

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