Son of soil who feels its pulse

Chief Minister MK Stalin, Minister P Moorthy, and Madurai MP S Venkatesan lauded Sudharsan.

Published: 29th January 2023 08:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th January 2023 08:26 AM   |  A+A-

N Sudharsan

Team led by N Sudharsan bagged Rs 3 lakh cash award in UNESCO-India-Africa Hackathon 2022 |0 Express

Express News Service

MADURAI: Backs bent over muddy fields, hardened hands carefully sowing seeds, a beseeching prayer for a favourable monsoon — all ingredients for a bountiful harvest. Moist loamy clay soil holds the promise of yield that will feed and sustain households across Tamil Nadu, V Banumathy would often tell her son, N Sudarshan. The key to lush fields is healthy soil.

Banumathy’s stories would feature heavy, sudden downpours or long summery dry days that could rapidly ruin sectioned fields in a few minutes. Sudarshan’s recollections of childhood are intertwined with these tales, times spent in fields and comprehending farming techniques.

The 20-year-old Madurai native learned early on that monsoon was temperamental and soil was sensitive. As a Class 9 student, Sudarshan attended classes on communication with his mother, an assistant professor, at the Anna University Regional campus in Coimbatore.

N Sudarshan with CM
MK Stalin | Express

Banumathy recalls her son’s curiosity, asking a range of questions on culture, agriculture, and science.

“He started learning about algorithms, Machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence in high school. His self-determination and in-depth research help him achieve greater heights,” she remarked. The yearning to find solutions lingered as well.

This self-determination and his mother’s lessons helped him years later at the UNESCO-India-Africa Hackathon 2022, organised by the Ministry of Education.

With 36 hours and a vague topic in hand, the third-year B Tech artificial intelligence and data science student of Sri Eshwar College of Engineering, Coimbatore, asked his six-member team ‘Techno Cratss’ for a moment to pitch a wild idea.

Despite being the only representative of Tamil Nadu on an international platform, the youth did not baulk from the chance. Within minutes, the 20-year-old slowly explained a solution that had germinated from memories of fields.

In front of 100 teams from 23 countries and a jury of experts at Gautam Buddha University, Sudarshan painted a picture — a possibility to evade the tightening grip of climate change. Imagine a world where farmers could just upload photographs of the soil and receive a report on its health, he said. With a click of a button, an app could display the soil’s moisture level, a five-day weather forecast, and the water requirement.

According to Sudarshan, “this cost-efficient app uses Machine Learning (ML) to predict the moisture content of the soil using just an image. The forecast and pointers would guide them on when to plant seeds, water requirements, and help them reduce wastage of water and electricity.” After deliberation, experts authorised the app, marvelling at its 92.5% accuracy.

The youngster and his teammates — Hicham El Akhal from Morocco, ML Abhinandan Singla from Punjab, Inaria Monjane from Mozambique, Shekhar K from Pune, and Nana Barira Esther M from Nigeria  — eventually bagged a `3 lakh prize. In the previous national round, Sudarshan’s team developed the ‘Nimmathi app’ which is based on the flutter framework to employ therapeutic techniques. “The in-built modules will help users handle negative emotions and stress,” he explained.

Speaking to TNIE about his mantra to success, the youngster explains his ideas find their root in his curiosity about research.

“My mother provided the motivation and food for thought to help develop it further. She would always support and guide me. Wherever I go, I never miss a prize and have bagged several cash prizes in symposiums. This encouraged me to move further with great enthusiasm.”

Sudarshan is a regular face at symposiums, science exhibitions, and seminars. In Class 12, he bagged the first prize in a coding competition organised by KGISL Engineering College in Coimbatore.

The soil testing app did not escape the notice of the ministers back home. Chief Minister MK Stalin, Minister P Moorthy, and Madurai MP S Venkatesan lauded Sudharsan. He mentions that Stalin assured him he would extend assistance to execute the innovation. “I’m also waiting for companies to bring this innovation to the next level. This is a milestone in my journey,” he said.


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