Veenadhari Kollipara, USA, 18
Project: Transforming Agriculture to Feed the World Sustainably: A State-of-the-Art, Drone-Enabled Precision Agriculture End-to-End Solution
Basic Human Needs: Food, Water
When Veenadhari attended a talk given by an organic farmer, she was shocked to hear about the unregulated use of harmful pesticides. The overuse of chemicals kills pollinators, causes unwanted changes in soil chemistry and decreases crop yields. Veenadhari visited farmers and agricultural extension officers across six counties in her home state of Washington. Most of the farmers she met used uniform applications of water, pesticides and fertilizers, and made decisions that were not based on any quantitative data. Veenadhari hypothesized that farmers could make smarter crop decisions by employing precision agriculture, data analytics and aerial robotics, since these methods would provide precise, accurate data on soil conditions across their fields. To help farmers do this, she spent multiple summers designing, building and testing a 3D-printed quadcopter drone. Veenadhari’s drone has an infrared camera to assess crop health, a spray system for localized application of pesticides and fertilizers, and a soil-sampler system equipped with onboard Arduino soil moisture, temperature and pH sensors. It also connects to a farmer-friendly dashboard via a laptop, tablet or phone, so farmers can visualize their field data, adjust their farm practices and manage their farms more efficiently. Her system allows farmers to minimize crop inputs, while maximizing crop yields, and achieves a cost reduction 25 times greater than commercial agricultural drones. Veenadhari hopes to soon integrate predictive analytics and machine learning to predict future crop yields, and reach out to more farming communities with her technology.