Dr. Basharat Ahmed Bhat, a Srinagar-based researcher has developed AppleDoc - an artificial intelligence-driven decision support system for precision of apple farming which aims to push apple cultivation and change the way apple cultivation is done.
AppleDoc was launched on March 07, 2022, on the 7th Technology Exhibition Cum Seed Sale Mela at SKUAST-Kashmir.
“AppleDoc aims to provide the data-driven solutions to farmers with real-time and weather-based advisories on irrigation management, pest and nutrition management. It shall also connect the farmers with input suppliers, experts from SKUAST-Kashmir, government schemes, banks for subsidy and schemes,” Dr. Bhat said.
AppleDoc provides customized and orchard-specific advisories (real-time and reliable) to apple orchardists on all aspects of plant health and disease diagnosis, plant nutrition, and orchard management besides advisory on best quality inputs required. This application shall reduce the chemical burden on apple by advocating wise use and best quality sprays.
“R&D platform on Artificial Intelligence and IoTs for building the big-data by fetching the information (geo-spatial) from individual orchards, installing weather stations (both real and virtual), data analytics for customized (location-specific) information to apple or, support environment and human health,” he said.
Dr. Bhat has done B.tech (CSE) from Islamic University of Science and Technology, M.tech from Jamia Hamdard, Ph.D from Shiv Nadar University (SNU) and PostDoc from University of Otago, New Zealand.
He said he was able to come up with the mobile application through collaboration with SKUAST-K. He started working on this app in 2019 when an untimely rain had affected more than 50 percent of the total apple produce in Kashmir.
“I was in New Zealand that time. I decided to come back and start developing weather-based and location-specific solution which provides information to growers in real time,” he said.“With the active involvement of officials from SKUAST-K, we succeeded in developing AppleDoc. The app is freely available on play store and app store for use.”
Dr Bhat said the technological system shall support smart farming practices, which can reduce labour and inputs, wise-use of plant chemicals and fertilizers shall minimize negative environmental impacts, and also increase yields.
“This is my brainchild and as a director of the company. I received the funding via the Government of India’s BIRAC-Big Scheme,” he said.
Apple industry being the backbone of economy in J&K, Dr. Bhat said this industry is expected to grow manifold in coming years.
“This growth is beset with the challenges of the poor information dissemination, technology adoption, weak market linkages and exploitation by the middlemen. The R&D organizations and the policy planners are equally handicapped due to non-availability of the reliable bigdata in real-time. This impacts future prospectus of the industry and the adoption of new age technologies driven by AI/ML and automation is necessary,” he said.
He said the AI-Driven Intelligent system is a solution which provides location specific and custom advisory for farmers from bloom to basket.
It also provides orchard specific nutrition and pest management, advisory to stakeholders, support environment and human health by advocating wise use of plant chemicals and fertilizers based on data analytics and it has direct connection with experts from SKUAST-K.
Dr. Bhat said one of the major reasons why agriculture is not as sustainable or productive as expected is that there continues to exist an element of unpredictability.
“Unexpected changes in climatic conditions around the world lead to numerous problems including droughts, hails and a major rise or dip in temperature which can also lead to an incidence of pest infestation or crop diseases,” he said.
AppleDoc is a robust and flexible apple orchard management platform that incorporates end-to-end solutions for data-driven decision making for multiple stakeholders.
“Its real-time satellite and weather-based advisory enables accurate forecasting for planning farm activities, which enables to reduce chemical burden on apple, reduce environmental pollution etc.,” he said.
He said that officials like Professor Haroon Rashid, VC of the SKAUST, Professor Nazir Ahmad Ganai, and other experts were instrumental in making the project successful.
While sharing about how the app helps the farmers, Dr. Bhat said mostly the orchardists go for the same techniques irrespective of the weather and soil condition. The app provides farmers with a customized plan of farming.
“The app is connected with satellites and provides robust orchard specific data. With expert advice from SKUAST-K scientists AppleDoc provide dynamic spray and fertilizers plan based on the weather of the particular area,” he said.
This app also provides compete irrigation plan based on local field conditions and soil parameters and also prepares for dry spells and any other possible weather conditions.
Most of the farmers use general pesticides and fertilizers, the app guides farmers on scientific farm practices like best quality inputs to use, how to use and how much to use.
“Farmers face a lot of issues and are unprepared for weather conditions. This app will provide hourly weather updates to the farmers. Farmers also invest a lot in chemicals, the app will help in cutting down that too. The use of random chemicals will also be stopped by providing exact data and expert opinions. This will help in increasing the produce at an efficient cost and by going for scientific driven apple production,” Dr Bhat said.
He said that the app is user-friendly and won’t need much technical expertise to operate. The farmers will have to register through a few steps, upload their pictures and create a password to operate the app securely.
“The app will also provide information via SMS and voice calls, which will help farmers to receive updates even if there is no internet connectivity,” he said.
The app has been recently launched for Android and IOS users. He said that reviews from farmers helped in making the app better with each passing day.
Dr Bhat is aiming to add other farm produce like rice, cherry and walnut to this project and provide help to farmers.
As the world is moving towards intelligent farming, his app is a step towards realizing the same in Kashmir and through this endeavour he wants to contribute through the technology and help farmers realize the dream of scientific-driven apple production in Kashmir.
Also, in the next two years, he plans precision spraying using drone technology, analytical input supply based on soil type, orchard location etc. and lot based fertigation system.
Using AppleDoc farmers shall remain updated about the following thing: