How a device called Pluto has transformed farmers’ lives

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New Delhi | Published: July 4, 2018 1:48:06 AM

An electrical device based on the concept of input/ ouput controller, Pluto has been designed by a Jaipur-based student to switch on water pumps through a mobile phone

RAJASTHAN, TECHNOLOGYYoung inventor Ishan Malhotra (C) distributing the Pluto device to villagers in Rajasthan

Even as farmers in Jaipur district battle long spells of dry weather and erratic power supply, farmer Om Prakash of Nevta village is unperturbed. Thanks to a mobile connected, electrical device called Pluto. Since he brought home the device, the inconvenience of visiting outlying farms during the night just to switch on and off the motorised water pumps and irrigate the fields is a thing of the past.

“We are saving 2-3 hours every day with the help of Pluto. Pluto is a simple and smart solution, even my children and wife can operate the pump by calling Pluto from the mobile. The solution gives a respite from walking long distances everyday in the sweltering heat or the biting cold,” says Prakash. A farmer has to call a designated number and after two rings the call is connected. After that, he has to dial 1111 on the keypad to turn the pump on. To turn the pump off, he needs to dial 2222 on the keypad. The device can also send a message or make a call to the farmer on his mobile phone alerting him about the availability of electricity.

Like Prakash, there are many other farmers in this arid district of Rajasthan who are using Pluto. This transformation in farming has been made possible by a 17-year-old student from Jaipur named Ishan Malhotra. A student of Jayshree Periwal International, it took him almost two years to build this device that enables farmers to operate their motor pumps installed in far-off fields via a mobile phone or a landline without a 3G/4G network around the clock. It is arguably one of India’s most economical electrical devices completely made of indigenous components, thus making a compelling ‘Make in India’ story.

Explaining what sparked the idea behind Pluto, Malhotra says, “I thought of inventing a device that can help farmers and enhance their experience by gradually taking over routine, mundane tasks. The basic premise was to develop a simple and extremely cost-effective practical device that can turn on-turn off the water pump using a mobile phone without an internet connection. Pluto works on the concept of input/output controller. Each device has a SIM card that is controlled by open source platform Arduino used for building electronic projects and a GSM module.”
According to him, apart from water pumps, electrical equipment such as refrigerators and washing machines can also be operated by using Pluto. Today, Pluto is being used by 400 farmers and their families in five states—Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

“I want to make Pluto available to 8 lakh farmers by 2020 at a subsidised rate. I have started using crowdfunding platforms to ease the pressure of finding funds to purchase components for Pluto,” says Malhotra. “The device will integrate seven new languages, other than existing Hindi and English, so that it is accessible to more farmers across the country. We are adding features that will give farmers weekly updates about the weather in the village.”

Now, Pluto is getting assembled by a Delhi-based firm. While Malhotra gives the first two devices in a village for free, the rest are sold at `700 a piece. With mobile connectivity and power supply improving in rural India, Malhotra expects Pluto to be of more use to farmers.

Agrees Prakash. “I don’t need a new SIM or an expensive phone to use Pluto. I use my regular phone SIM in the slot given on the device and connect the water pump with Pluto,” he says with a satisfied smile.

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