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PUBLISHED IN iIT KGP | SEPTEMBER 2020 | SPONSORED BY SRIC

Shooting to the sky:

IITM TEAM BUILDs A ROCKET IIT MADRAS pg- 28

Automated Aquaponics System: SMART FARMING FOR THE CHANGING CLIMATE IIT KHARAGPUR pg- 18

Tapestry:

A SOLUTION TO CHECK INDIA’S RAPIDLY GROWING COVID CASES IIT BOMBAY pg- 04


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Tapestry:

A solution to check India’s rapidly rising COVID cases Here is a unique pooling method that can be used to screen thousands of COVID 19 patients with up to 100 % accuracy. This innovation from IIT Bombay is currently leading the world in finding economic and efficient ways to perform coronavirus testing. Edited by ABIR MEHTA , PRANAV KASAT Designed by RENU SREE PINNINTI

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ith new cases per day crossing 80,000, India needs to find economic and scalable ways to test the population for the COVID 19 virus. Currently, it takes about 3-5 days for the results of a standard PCR test to reach its patients. Further, each lab in India can trial about 200 samples in a day. The need of the hour is to rapidly test millions of Indians, who are part of the workforce to kickstart the economy. We also need to regularly test medical staff to ensure that the disease does not spread from one patient to another. However, our current testing capacities are simply not sufficient to test those that need to be screened daily for the virus. Thus, Professor Manoj Gopalkrishnan, Electrical Engineering IIT Bombay conceptualised Tapestry, a method to pool COVID 19 samples which reduces the number of trials required to test a given number of patients. In other words, it uses compressed sensing algorithms to test n patients while performing only m trials, where n >> m. For example, they recently tested 105 samples using only 45 trials with 100% accuracy. Thus, implemented correctly, Tapestry can be used to test twice as many people as traditional PCR sampling. So let’s have a look at the team making this possible.

Who are they? The research team consists of two parts, one at IIT Bombay and the other at NCBS (National Center for Biological Sciences).

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The team at IIT Bombay deals with developing the algorithm and mixing patterns for the samples. They have also developed a mobile application which gives specific instructions about pooling the samples. There are about 25-30 undergraduate students in the second and third year working from IIT Bombay. The team at NCBS, Bangalore tests the accuracy of Tapestry on actual COVID samples in lab environments. They physically perform the pooling of samples as instructed by the application. Samples which have already been tested are used to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of the algorithm used for pooling.

Conception of the idea: The initial idea of this project was thought just before the lockdown when COVID-19 had begun spreading in India. Prof. Manoj Gopalkrishnan was keen on improving COVID scenario. He simply asked his PhD student, Sabyasachi if he could come up with a way to reduce the number of trials required to test a given pool of patients. This one question kickstarted project Tapestry.

The First Attempt His initial solution to this problem was analogous to the binary search algorithm where they would split the samples and perform sequential testing. After splitting the samples from the previous round into two equal pools, we reject pools which test negative and perform tests on the positive pools only. This is an adaptive method of testing where further tests depend on previous results. Since multiple tests are performed s equentially, and each test takes 3-4 hours to complete, this proved to be a rather slow procedure.

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Close, but not close enough To make their research more practical, they started working on non-adaptive testing methods. In these methods, with just one round of testing of all the pools, it is possible to get the results of the samples. One such non-adaptive method is COMP(Combinatorial Orthogonal Matching Pursuit). By COMP, we can get to know which of the pools have no traces of the virus. So, we can declare these samples virus-free. The pool with traces of the virus is declared positive.

To get an idea of what these pools look like, let’s say we plan on testing 105 patients. We test the patients in pools of 7 such that each sample from each patient is teated thrice. This means we perform 45 tests, each test containing samples from 7 different patients. COMP gave a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 92% on a synthetic data where the total no. of positive samples were about 10% in a given set where-

Sensitivity = the ratio of the number of correctly detected positives to the number of actual positives. Tells us what percent of positive cases are detected. Specificity = the ratio of the number of correctly detected negatives to the number of actual negatives. Tells us what percent of detected cases are positive.

Example: Here is an example where 24 tests are for 60 patients. Each row indicates a test and the green squares indicate that a particular sample was used in the corresponding test. For example, patient one was tested in test numbers 9 and 13.

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Team Tapestry : has gained national recognition. Here is a tweet by the cabinet Minister of Education about their research.

Wrong corona image: Here is an image that is often mistakenly used by media bodies as a CORONA virus image. It is, in fact, the close-up of a flower showing the stigma with pollen sticking to it.

This method had thirdly major drawbacks: • Firstly, as the ratio of positive samples in a set increases, it is evident that this method would give more ‘false-positives’ as the whole infected pool is declared positive. Thus, it works well only when the no. of positive cases in our sample set are very few. • Secondly, this method does not take into account the viral loads ( can be understood as the density of the virus) in a sample and thus, did not use all available data. Detecting the viral load is very important because it also indicates the severity of the infection ( a greater viral load implies a more severe infection).

He suggested the use of methods to be used after COMP that would improve the testing specificity. He then enlisted the help of Professor Ajit Rajwade of the CSE department to implement compressed sensing algorithms. These algorithms were able to achieve a specificity of more than 95% when tested on computer-generated samples. After months of perfecting their compressed sensing algorithm, they were ready to test it in labs. When tested by lab staff at NCBS, Bangalore compress sensing yielded results which seemed unbelievable. Certain pools were 100% accurate. There were no false positives, or false negatives and every single prediction made by the program was correct. The next article plans on exploring these methods in order to understand the research better. We also plan on covering the future application of this brilliant discovery and how it may aid us in our fight against the virus.

The Solution We need a method which reduces the number of ‘false positives’ and taken into account the viral load of each test. This is where professor Manoj’s knowledge in compressed sensing came in handy.

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A Step Forward to AI: The IIT Delhi way!

The very foundation of AI was an attempt to reproduce the mechanism of human thought via symbols and artificial means. An innate desire to understand and therefore comprehend how the brain thinks has initiated a discipline that underwent a domino effect to surge to the heights it is today and reach further elevations in the near future. Edited by GARGI DAS & PIYUSH KUMAR Designed by AVANTI HARGUDE

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his Wednesday (Sept 2) IIT Delhi announced the establishment of an independent AI school on the campus. IIT Delhi, as we know, has already been ranked No. 1 in the country for its high-quality publications on AI for the last ten years. The School of Artificial Intelligence (ScAI) is believed to cement the position of the institute not only in India but globally. The Ph.D. program is supposed to start from the next admission cycle while a Master’s course is still being planned. It is the 6th school set up by IIT D and will have a broad spectrum research trajectory and diverse educational pursuit. Prof. Mausam, the Head of ScAI said that the school shall be driven by the core faculty members --people who consider AI or its application in various domains as their main area of research. At present, many faculty members from the institute are likely to take joint appointments in ScAI. The school also plans to hire at least 20 core faculty members in the next ten years. Apart from that, it will also have joint and adjunct faculty members who could also be experts from the industry or faculty from other departments.

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The few key objectives powering the ScAI are: •

To bring together the more than fifty IIT Delhi faculty members individually invested in various aspects of the field. With this, ScAI expects to act as a force multiplier for overall research productivity. To provide external branding to IIT Delhi in this field of immense importance. A cohesive group in AI will allow focused hiring of faculty members and students to increase global visibility. It will become a one-stop center for industry or government interested in collaborating or funding AI innovations. To provide a platform for industry, government and civil society entities to share their domain problems, which will then be matched with IIT Delhi faculty with the relevant technical/ analytical expertise. To initiate educational programs focused on AI. Initially, the focus will be on the postgraduate level. After achieving a critical mass of core AI researchers, professional level educational programs will be introduced.

Artificial Intelligence has captured the imagination of the entire world with its potential ability to solve complex societal problems of our times: universal access to healthcare and education, efficient transportation, increased efficiency in providing e-governance services to the public and many more. The Government of India has also initiated a widespread discussion on how India should strive to be among the top nations in the world in the AI ecosystem. In this regard, many top institutes in India have already started educating the students in this field. B.tech course in AI in IIT Hyderabad and M.Tech course in IISc Bangalore are examples of some programs being offered to students from last year. ScAI is taking it a step further to provide a Ph.D. program from the next academic year (2021).

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The commencement of this course will boost new possibilities for researchers in the country as over 50 IIT Delhi faculty members with expertise in the field of AI will come together. While the focus initially will be on generating postgraduate level courses, the school aims at churning out professional-level educational programs. ScAI will be completely multi-disciplinary in nature. Several academic disciplines and professional specialists will be involved in the program. The flexible faculty model of ScAI will enhance the learning process. CBSE has announced to introduce courses in cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence from class 9 after this academic session. The programs offered by ScAI will definitely attract interested students to get involved in research and innovate in India. The curriculum of ScAI will focus on bringing students to the forefront of AI research and development. To ensure the broadness in the research areas and multidisciplinary academic extents, ScAI will also look for some organizations and universities which are working enthusiastically in the field of AI. In the future, they will collaborate with various partners from India and abroad. “We are also looking for external partners to help shape this new school into a world-class entity”, said Prof. Mausam. Prof V. Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT Delhi said that the present degrees in this field in India are broad-based and therefore, make it difficult for students to gain detailed knowledge about various subfields of AI. As the demand for experienced AI practitioners increases by the day, every country is investing heavily in this field to get ahead in the race. A nation’s progress shall depend on its AI capability as AI is indeed the tech of the future. However, India lags behind in the overall quality and quantity of AI research. IIT Delhi expects ScAI to fill this very gap.

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The SELCO Journey - Transforming ‘Thelawalas’ into Entrepreneurs

Building an ecosystem with sustainable energy innovations. Recognizing skill in rural areas and providing the infrastructure to grow. Changing lives without resorting the ruthless capitalism. Edited by APARNA NARAYANAN Designed by RENU SREE PINNINTI

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small village at the outskirts of Bangalore. A tin-roofed shack barely tall enough for a man to stand up in. Mountains of rice piled up in small heaps. A furnace heating up the cramped room until everything looks hazy. A small boy pushed into the tiny shack where the temperature is close to 50 degree Celsius now. The ten year old child working away next to the furnace taking handfuls of grain at a time. Making puffed rice, a snack that is sold in the Bangalore markets. Working away for hours only to earn less than 100 rupees for a full day’s work. This is the society we live in. This is the other side of our world we willfully ignore. A small boy who should have been going to school and learning about numbers and rainbows, instead held back to work in a tiny hot room for the family business of making puffed rice. The boy isn’t given a choice, because his diminutive build makes him the only person who can work in the tiny space of the shack, built that way to hold in the heat. This is the kind of community SELCO aims to support. By setting up solar panels so that the boy no longer has to slog away next to a furnace, optimizing the structure of the shack to hold the heat better, developing a machine to simplify the rice puffing process, the company SELCO helps these people do what they do to earn, but better.

The germ of an idea In a recent talk hosted by the IIT Alumni Centre Bengaluru, Harish Hande (co-founder of SELCO) spoke about research and development in India using sustainable energy as a medium. With a very grounded and realistic perspective, he explained that the ecosystem we live in has wholly deskilled the poor. What exactly did he mean?

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Traditional puffed rice makers setting up the furnace to start the work for the day

An IIT Kharagpur alumni who did his undergraduate studies in energy engineering, Harish Hande went on to complete his Masters and PhD at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His vision to give back to society at the most fundamental level had already started formulating at this stage, with some humbling experiences that changed his outlook. The tenacity and endurance he saw in the street vendors and menial workers of India had influenced him, each day a battle as they lived hand-to-mouth, with very little hope of changing their fortunes. The struggle to survive defined their very lives, scraping and saving in any way they could just to keep going. The option of living any other way was not a luxury given to them. In a visit to the Dominican Republic, he was appalled by the scanty living conditions of the poor in the country, amplified by a total lack of electricity. However, he found that many of the poor were able and willing to pay for solar power, using that as a means of sustenance. This discovery sent him down the path of sustainable solutions by setting up solar energy panels and creating the infrastructure for them to be an affordable and viable system. The exposure he gained by interacting with the people in diverse communities and understanding their lives gave him unique insight into the rural ecosystem. With Neville Williams, a former Green Peace activist from Sri Lanka, financing Harish Hande’s idea of a solar company, SELCO was born. Our society has people who have worked in specific industries for generations. If they met the strait-laced ideas of education, they would be

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considered an expert in that field, but purely because of the social constructs and limitations, they are denied that kind of exposure. More importantly, they are denied the means to be self-dependent and elevate themselves out of poverty. Society has conditioned us to think that the educated elite are the only ones who can fix things for the poor when they don’t understand what their problems are. They are so removed from the reality of the lives of ordinary people that the very nature of the problem is incomprehensible to them. What ends up happening is they assume a problem that conveniently fits with the scheme they want to implement, instead of figuring out the real challenges the people face and finding a solution to that. Mr.Hande observed that perspective and empathy are what we lack in our approach to tackle the day-to-day issues in the lives of the poor. A white-collar professional sitting in an airconditioned office working with a Macbook is rarely capable of understanding the difficulty of a man in a village struggling to get one square meal a day. The entitled train of thought we may not even realize we have creates a wide gulf between the engineering graduate working in an MNC and the street vendor he is trying to “uplift”. The business mindset of selling to the poor and consequently make them keep paying for something that isn’t even what they need is why they stay dependent. SELCO breaks this cycle by coming up with need-based solutions and initiating a reverse supply chain that gives the rural communities a platform to cater to the rest of the society.


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Their Mission SELCO recognized an unjust equilibrium – where the very poor are trapped in a cycle of poverty exacerbated by unreliable or unavailable energy access. Given its two-decade experience, SELCO has concluded the most effective way to catalyze broader adoption of energy solutions would be to cultivate a conducive market environment with five key ecosystem conditions:

-financial inclusion (access to funding), -human resource development (local talent), -inclusive policies (government support), -market linkages (local suppliers), -technology and design (products that meet customer needs). If these conditions all exist, it creates a new equilibrium in which long term energy solutions will flourish, improving quality of life for the very poor and ultimately alleviating poverty. The novel idea SELCO brings is of decentralized entrepreneurs and scaled up processes as a means to reach the poor to give them platforms to do better on a large scale. This plan ingeniously circumvents the feasibility issue that generally comes in when any startup tries to provide access to various facilities like sustainable energy to downtrodden communities but does not get a broad audience. SELCO’s solutions meet the needs of the poor and facilitate linkages to local financial institutions who can design customized credit solutions to enhance affordability. This is a two-pronged approach of doorstep service and finance, giving long-term solutions for the ground-level problems in the lives of the poor. Since its inception in 1995, SELCO has been awarded numerous accolades as they carved a niche for themselves in the sustainable energy sector. They received the Accenture Economic Development Award as well as the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy, or the “green Oscars” as they are also called (the latter was received twice). Mr.Harish Hande received many honours in a personal capacity as well as he spearheaded this venture. He was inducted as an Ashoka Fellow in 2008 for his role as an influential change-maker by making affordable energy solutions more accessible. This was followed by the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2011 for “his pragmatic efforts to put solar power https://i.pinimg.com/originals/3d/62/ea/3d62eace6e0e848e79b181220151ee2b.jpg

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technology in the hands of the poor, through his social enterprise SELCO India�. His alma mater honoured him as well in 2014 with a Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Not selling. Empowering In a novel approach, SELCO tackled these issues by involving the poor as active contributors in the energy system they were investing in. The company established structured plans with their financial partners that enabled the buyers to pay for the technology over an extended period and matched their cash flow. Affordable? Check. When it came to maintenance, local youth recruited and trained by the organization learnt the skills required for the necessary upkeep. In effect, they took up the responsibility of managing their energy systems. A staggering majority of SELCO employees are people from such rural communities who took charge of developing and innovating solutions in their areas with the solar panel technology acting as a conduit. Maintenance and employment? Check,

Looking past all the titles, we see that the recognition SELCO has gained as an organization is because of its impressive work breaking multiple myths that the corporate world thrives on. 1. Poor people cannot afford sustainable technology 2. Poor people cannot maintain sustainable technology 3. Social ventures cannot be run as commercial entities

Cultivating these ideas meant the status quo never changed, and the social hierarchy established over decades of widening the economic gap. However, this gap is not an impossible one to bridge.

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intermediaries for the customers to expand their businesses are all roles SELCO plays. Effectively a basket weaver or silk farmer gets better productivity in their craft because of the solar energy, and also a boost in their business thanks to SELCO connecting them to a bigger market and providing smart financing plans.

check. And the success of SELCO as a company is no longer under question with their significant growth over the years in a humane business model of generating moderate profits each year which were then reinvested in their own company. By its very existence today, SELCO defies all social constructs of ruthless capitalism being the only route to success.

This holistic approach ensures a complete upgrade in the quality of life of rural communities. Setting them up on their feet as independent entrepreneurs without requiring any distasteful charity, this is the kind of growth that can eradicate the lopsided economy we presently live in.

If you try to break down their functioning, you see that despite being a company that provides solar energy technology, their work isn’t merely restricted to that. By studying the supply chain as a whole, SELCO incorporates flexibility and targets all the weak links to make their tech solution more productive. Customizing the product to meet the consumer’s specific needs, establishing a long term payment plan involving installments of just a fraction of the buyer’s monthly income to keep it affordable, setting up market linkages through

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Automated Aquaponics System: Smart Farming for the Changing Climate A backyard automated aquaponics system developed at IIT Kharagpur by Professor Aditya Bandopadhyay and his team, perfect for small scale organic farming is poised to solve many challenges the world faces in the agriculture and environment sector.

Edited by JASMINE JERRY A Designed by AVANTI HARGUDE

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he world is facing unprecedented global challenges that affect the sustainability of food and agriculture systems, and thus the livelihoods of millions of farmers worldwide. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in a world where food insecurity and hunger present an enormous global challenge. This challenge poses severe threats to achieving the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. More food will be needed to feed a growing population and, to meet sustainability goals, the bulk of this increase must come from a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations believes that innovation, in general, and particularly in agriculture, is the central driving force for achieving a world free from hunger and malnutrition thus attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Prof. Aditya Bandopadhyay and team

uncertainties in crop yield due to changing climate and deteriorating soil due to the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, means farmers’ income has taken a toll. Thus there arises a need for predictable, assured and organic crop production, which will benefit not only the farmers but also the consumers. Such a system can be developed using the agricultural technique of aquaponics which is built on the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. The farmer can earn from both the fish and the crops, and it’s entirely organic.

What is Aquaponics?

Water consumption is lower, and plant density is usually at least twice that of soil-based methods.

Prof. Aditya Bandopadhyay and students Himanshu Raj Khandelwal, Hemant Kumar Chaudhary and Ankush Roy at IIT Kharagpur have developed a backyard automated aquaponics system that combines aquaculture and soil-less farming-hydroponics. This project is under the M N Faruqui Innovation Centre (MNFIC) and is being converted into a startup. In this age of consumption centric booming Indian population which is only expected to increase over the years and coupled with the problems of climate change, food safety will be a central issue. With the increase in lifestyle diseases there also has been some push towards organic food. However, the

The idea of aquaponics is fascinating, as it is something so simple, and yet there are still so many different ways of going about it, and time required to research these methods. So what is aquaponics, airlift pump or bell siphon? And what is the role of the nitrogen cycle in aquaponics? It isn’t some new 21st-century technology. The Aztec Indians raised plants on rafts on the surface of lakes before the term aquaponics was known, in approximately 1,400 AD. Another early example can be found in South China, Thailand and Indonesia, where the cultivation and farming of rice in paddy fields in combination with fish are cited as examples of early aquaponics systems.

Aquaculture + Hydroponics = Aquaponics Aquaculture is a form of agriculture encompassing the propagation, cultivation and marketing of aquatic animals and plants, including fish for food and ornamentation, bait for the fishing industry, sport fish for restocking ponds and lakes, and fish for feed ingredients. Hydroponics means water working by definition. In practical use, it refers to growing plants in water (soil-less farming) and nutrient solution. A hydroponic culture allows System component specifications

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Greenhouse built on campus

a farmer to grow plants more efficiently and productively with less labour, less water and less fertilizer because the plants are provided with the ideal water and nutrient ratios and optimum conditions for growth. In aquaponics, raising fish provides a source of nutrients (Urea) for the nitrogen-consuming bacteria, which helps to clean the water where the fish live in, by breaking down these compounds into nitrates. The nutrient-rich water that results from this feed the plants and keeps them healthy. Water consumption is lower, and plant density is usually at least twice that of soil-based methods. As such, the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics help to sustain an environment in which they both can thrive. The relevance of the project for India, primarily rural India Statistics show, about 63% of Indian farmers have less than 1 hectare of land, and about 80% have less than 5 acres. This means the productive area for a majority of Indian farmers is too low for any significant income to support the family, as well as grow over the years. No wonder that most of the farmers are laden in debts. It requires farmers to go vertical or multi-layer to increase productivity. Aquaponics is carried out in a greenhouse/ polyhouse which ensures climate control, 90% less water than traditional farming, higher yield density due to the scope of vertical farming, and no pesticides. The best part is it’s totally organic and highly scalable. One can build a system as small as an aquarium to something as large as an entire farm. This can not only be a good investment for the farmers in rural India but as well for the urban households who can grow fresh food at their homes.

The present state of the art Currently, only a few systems exist around the world which are reliable, easily scalable and easy to use for the farmers who are less educated. The best techniques az available to them is agricultural machinery to carry out different aspects of farming. In the developed world, the farmers are using drones to monitor crops and spray pesticides and even large scale drip irrigation systems. But farms in India are comparably much smaller, rendering these techniques as uneconomical. The Idea The aquaponics system, with it’s all advantages requires two significant inputs. One is the infrastructure & power and the second one is the constant monitoring of crops which requires substantial knowledge of the domain. Thus the system if at all is to be used within the Indian farmer community should be automated so that the maintenance and domain knowledge required to operate is minimal.

Nutrient monitoring - Ammonia

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Produce by IIT Kharagpur’s Automated Aquaponics Project

The aquaponics system mainly consists of two components;

The constant supply of nutrients ensures at least two times density compared to that of traditional cropping and the greenhouse provides climate control and less loss of water, thus requiring 90% less water than conventional farming.

1. One is the plants that are being grown and the fish. The cycle starts with feeding the fish. The fish excreta is rich in Ammonia, which is then biologically converted to Nitrates by good nitrifying bacteria. 2. The nitrate-rich water is then supplied directly to the roots of the plants. Plants take up this nitrate as nutrients and clean up the water. This water is then pumped back to the fish tanks, and the cycle continues. The whole process needs constant monitoring of pH, ammonia concentration, climate control using fans and various sensors and uninterrupted supply of power. The only job of the farmer would be to sow the saplings, feed the fish and collect data for crop health analysis. The automated system would take power from the sun and if required then from the grid. The power would be used to run the water pumps, the fans, and the sensors installed. The system will be controlled using a centralised micro controller which will collect and process the data from the sensors and take the necessary actions to keep the system running. Another advantage of using a closed environment such as a greenhouse for agriculture is vertical farming. Vertical farming acts as a multiplier for increasing productivity per square feet. This would be a boon for Indian farmers since 63% of them own land less than 1 hectare.

What does aquaponics bring to the table? • • •

• •

• • • •

Cost-effective soil-less farming system for modern farmers. System customized for rural usage with emphasis on energy optimization. Increasing outreach of modern farming technology (requiring 90% less water and increased production per square foot). Producing organic, off-season and exotic crops with climate invariance, hence boosting the farmer’s income. Highly scalable form of agriculture suitable for both indoor and outdoor farming ranging from urban households to large farmlands. Water is conserved, and the nutrients are reused. Water usage is extended, and discharge to the environment is reduced. Enables continuous and sustainable production. The system is simple, reliable and robust. Hydroponic component serves as a biofilter.

Integrated systems require less water quality monitoring than individual systems.

Inside view of the setup - Nutrient Film Technique

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Media Bed tank

Growing Trend of Indian Sustainable Agriculture Startups Red Otter Farms Red Otter Farms is an Indian aquaponics based farming startup located in Kotabagh, a tiny hamlet near Corbett Park, Uttarakhand founded by Anubhav Das and Srishti Mandaar. Spread over 45,000 square feet, their controlled environment aquaponics facility can produce the same yields as nearly 7 acres of open fields. With the use of modern technology and predictive analytics as well as by focusing on sustainable practices including smart use of resources, they produce soft herbs like mint, basil and coriander as well as everyday veggies like tomato and lady’s finger on their aquaponics farm since early 2017. Barton Breeze Barton Breeze is a commercial hydroponic farm specialist, using controlled sustainable technology and modern farming techniques, to create highly productive agri-models for the new-age farmer. Founded in 2015, Barton Breeze operates fully-automated hydroponic farms to grow clean and pesticide-free 28 varieties of fruits and vegetables. The startup also sets up such farms for other investors and handholds them initially with knowhow and training. Behind each of their “Smart Farms”, there are dedicated R&D teams, plant scientists, microbiologists, mechanical engineers, and design engineers. Barton Breeze collects hundreds of data points at each of its farms to its Data Centre, which allows it to easily alter its indoor precision control for taste, texture, colour, and nutrition. The data also helps the company adjust variables like temperature and humidity to optimize its crop yields. Barton also collects all yield and harvest data into the cloud to calculate sales projections and market trends.

Future Farms FutureFarms was founded in Chennai focused on powering soil-less agri-technology in 2014. Using IoT, Big Data specialists and data scientists, Future Farms has harnessed the right technology for automated hydroponics making it a pioneer in the Indian hydroponics scene. The company has set up quarter-acre farms for the Adani group in Bhuj, and a farmer in Kotagiri, who cultivates iceberg lettuce for McDonald’s as well. The company sells hydroponic kits and also set up hydroponic units on a turnkey basis. Future Farms now grows 16 crop varieties, classified under English Exotic, Asian Exotic and Indian Exotic, across 15 acres of land spread over ten states across the country. With inputs from HIMANSHU RAJ KHANDELWAL and HEMANT KUMAR CHAUDHARY

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Contact Tracing and Fake News Verification Chatbot IIT Kanpur faculty and students have created Satyanweshi, a fake news detecting chatbot, to combat the immense misinformation regarding COVID-19. Edited by AYISHIK DAS Designed by SHALMALI SRIRAM

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he scale of false information present is vast, and this fake news has its consequences. A recent incident in Iran compelled the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to find a solution to this problem. Many people in Iran lost their lives believing from false news that industrial alcohol could cure COVID-19 . Misinformation in times of a pandemic can be fatal and should definitely be avoided. Thus, Dr. Swaprava Nath took this project to make people aware of the fake news and stay safe. Dr. Swaprava Nath, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Kanpur, and his team have developed a chatbot for contact tracing and fake news verification. Titled ‘Satyanweshi’ (‘seeker of truth’ in Sanskrit), the AI chatbot is programmed to find and check accurate information about COVID-19. “Along with COVID-19, we have been infected with an ‘infodemic’, which is bombarding us with tonnes of fake news. To help you out, we introduce Satyanweshi, your AI assistant for truth checking,” IIT Kanpur’s press communiqué mentioned. Thus, showing their commitment to the problem. Faculty and Students of IIT Kanpur developed this solution and are currently working with InfoPost, a startup based in San Diego, California.

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How to use Satyanweshi? A beta version of this solution is already available for public use. You can go to www. satyanweshi.net to access it or save the number +1-4155238886 as Satyanewashi in your contact list. When a user receives the news on WhatsApp, which they want to fact-check, they can forward the message to the Fact Checker bot and get a result. The result clarifies whether the news is false or not. Apart from providing fake or real clarification, if the news is fake, it tells us why the news is fake. Users can also clarify the information related to COVID-19 by just typing if they are unable to forward the news to the chatbot. Satyanweshi has expanded to Messenger. Their beta version is now available on their website.

model. The base training of the model comes from the trusted sources of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There may be cases when manual intervention is required, but it happens when the data has been encountered for the first time by the database. In such cases, the data is clarified by a reliable source, and the result is sent to the user. This new data is learned by the model. The model uses Binary Classification, that is, data can be separated into two groups; in this case, its real or fake. The machine learning model would generate a percentage of news that is false, and by Expectation-Maximization algorithm set a threshold above which the article will be fake. Below it, the article will be real.

Advantages of Satyanweshi

How does it work? When any news is forwarded to the Satyanweshi contact, it applies an input processing technique. The news is then classified into pictures or text. Both of these are processed by Natural Language Processing techniques and tested against a

Satyanweshi is much more user friendly than most of the other fact check apps. A simple forwarding the message gives the result. Most of the fact-checking apps rely on copypasting the text from text or typing the text from a picture into the fact-checking app to

Source : Swaprava Nath YouTube Channel

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Source : Swaprava Nath YouTube Channel

provide the result. This gives it a wider reach, and with further implementation, it can be used to detect news from other languages. It can also be accessed in different social media applications like Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Telegram. The most advantageous feature of the factchecker bot is its high accuracy. Its accuracy is much better than existing fake news detectors. This is mainly because the existing fake news applications work for all kinds of news while the IIT Kanpur fact-checking bot’s model is trained only to detect COVID-19 related information. This model further improves by manual detection, thus increasing accuracy even more.

Achievements Satyanweshi has been recognized by the Indian Government and Indian Media. It secured 2nd place in MHRD AICTE SAMADHAN competition in response to COVID-19 among 2500 participants.

Source : Satyanweshi website

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Shooting to the sky: IITM Student Team builds a Rocket

Here’s an interesting story from a group of enthusiastic rocketeers from IIT Madras. With ambitions as high as the sky they are soon to fly to New Mexico to be part of the famed Spaceport America Cup. Edited by NAVANEETH MS Designed by NIDAMANURI CHANIKYA GUPTA

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et’s agree we all look in awe when we see something goes soaring in the sky. No matter how old we are, it’s a natural instinct to gaze into the open sky and have a short moment of childish joy at the sight - if there’s a streak of jet behind it it’s even better. It could be an evolutionary behaviour, for the sky represents our ambitions and the horizon the limit of humanity. Of course this is just a tale of an archaic era since humans started shooting to the sky over half a century ago, increasing our foothold in the universe one step at a time. But still, this leap happened within our lifetimes which is exactly why we still look with wonder when a rocket roars up into the horizon - be it the Indian workhorse PSLV or the flashy Falcons of SpaceX.

Desi amateur rockets: Okay coming back to the topic, there’s nothing quite like Model Rocketry to attract spaceflight to the masses. Since the term ‘Rocket Science’ itself appears to be so interesting that there’s a very few who wouldn’t want to get a sneak peek at it. Model Rocketry sounds amazing because of its mis definition of building and flying rockets ‘ready to launch.’ We normally think about that odd bottle rocket we pumped up using water during our childhood. However the original concept of it revolves around rocket modeling at a mini scale and its subsequent designing, launching, and manufacturing.

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Model Rockets in India at best are crude versions upgraded from diwali rockets which use black powder charge to propel and have cardboard casing. The better ones use a more refined ammonium perchlorate composite as fuel and have ‘Sack-Kraft’ paper rolled into tubes for casing which is used in premium paper bags and is difficult to tear under pressure. Again these rockets don’t have an accurate flight path and can cause premature explosion of the fuel with the operators sometimes suffering from first degree burns to fatal accidents.

Planning the flight: It is exactly with these notions in mind that Team Ather - a group of 25 students from IIT M plans to compete in the Spaceport America Cup - the world’s largest Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry teams from all around the world. The purpose built spaceport is located in the Jornada Mountain Range of New Mexico which sees student rocketeers fire their rockets to unprecedented heights every year. Team Ather’s rocket named ‘MockingJay’ is ambitious in design as well as the technology it integrates. Conceived as a collaboration between Horizon - the physics and astronomy club - and the Electronics Club of IITM, the rocket is classified as a suborbital sounding rocket capable of carrying a payload of around Kg. Sounding rockets are generally speaking one or two-stage solid propellant rockets used to sample the upper atmospheric regions. They also serve as easily affordable platforms for testing or proving prototypes of new components or subsystems intended for use in actual spaceflight “We wanted to set the bar high and that’s why we decided straight on to venture into the competition arena so that we can push ourselves against competent models

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from across the globe” says Rahul Priyadarsan, the head of Horizon. He also adds that although disheartening, the pandemic opened up much time for deliberation and with the competition schedule pushed to 2022 the team is now collaborating with the Surat based startup STAR Research Laboratory to onboard the training process of the team members. “It’s very unpredictable given the pandemic situation, there’s no way we can meet each other but we hope things go as planned” sighs Rahul who is also annoyed by the online semester planned out in IITM. The rocket’s airframe is composed of fibre-glass and uses 3D printed modules for quick assembly. Unlike conventional model rockets which use solid fuel propellant, this 30kg beast uses liquid propulsion to go up. This gives the rocket a significant advantage for the fact that the entire flightpath can be moderated using an onboard computer. The Electronic Club of IITM is simultaneously designing an electrical avionics system to be integrated into the rocket which regulates the various components it picks up from the flight data, ultimately steering the rocket into its predesignated path. This is mostly an arduino microcontroller component specialised to record various components of flight like altitude, speed, orientation etc, and to execute crucial decisions like controlling the burn as well as detecting the apogee to launch the recovery parachute.The computer runs a high speed control loop, prioritizing separate functions depending on the progress of the flight and the corresponding flight data is crucial for further modifications and tinkering of the rocket. After the rocket reaches an altitude of 10,000ft it fires up the parachute for a safe recovery of the same. With speed exceeding Mach 1, the entire flight duration of the rocket is less than 2 minutes. The team is also looking for an external partnership for the scientific payload component atop the 20ft airframe, which can carry various instruments for multitude purposes not limited to aerial photography and atmospheric calculations.

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Reaching more heights: “Ultimately we only aim to apply what we have learnt in classrooms, it’s always challenging to convert theory into a real world application” reminds Rahul. He hopes that a positive experience from New Mexico will give them the much needed break. The team looks on to potentially expand into a competition team under Centre for Innovation (CFI) of IIT M, which can directly translate to increased funding opportunities including relevant industry sponsorship. Rahul exerts great plans for the future, including expanding the rocket to cross 30,000ft and enhanced capabilities like thrust vectoring. Thrust vectoring is a real game changer for the fact that it almost blurs the difference between sounding rockets and actual ones capable of spaceflight. Essentially this means one can control the direction of the thrust, ejecting out of the rocket engine, which is mainly achieved through controlling the fuel injection and movement of the engine in a rotary axis. Now the rocket would no longer need external fins for avionics, and it can slowly ascend and build speed, instead of leaving your sight in seconds. Also these models are more stable given the fact that the onboard flight computer can directly manipulate thrust to achieve proper velocity and orientation. Unlike the West, India lacks an ecosystem where similar enthusiasts can come together and launch their own amateur rockets, which not only gives a real world learning environment but also a good way to release some adrenaline. The team looks to create an ecosystem within the campus at minimum. “ A rocket launch is an awesome sight, we hope to attract the public and maybe one day a public display of the launch as well”, hopes Rahul.


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Source: Unsplash

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SDSLabs

SDSLabs, a student-run technical group at IIT Roorkee that aims to spread and cultivate the culture of everything computer science throughout the campus Edited by AKSHARA SINGH, NISHANTH R Designed by SHARVARI SRIRAM

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hat do we know about the famed SDSLabs?

SDSLabs or Software Development Section Laboratories is a student-run technical group at IIT Roorkee, which aims to encourage the development of technology and innovation in the campus and beyond. They aim to provide a gateway for the students of IIT Roorkee to join the coding community. They create a platform which allows students to gain assistance and mentorship to enhance their coding ability. Their aim is to propagate the enthusiasm for coding in the institute and especially amongst freshmen. They believe in learning and sharing knowledge; collaboration and experimentation; and human interaction that matters the most. SDSLabs is doing unprecedented work in the field of open source. Open-source software is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

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How does SDSLabs nurture the coding culture at IITR? SDSLabs really nurtures the coding capabilities of students and helps them hone their skills. To get into the renowned SDSLabs the students have to undergo a rigorous recruitment process which starts with a hackathon that normally takes place in September every year. This well renowned hackathon is mainly for first year students, the teams that bag the top 3 positions get a direct interview with SDSLabs. What follows is the Winter of Code, which is only for first year students. Students decide their own projects and submit their applications for this coveted competition. The applications for the month long competition are selected on the basis of availability of mentors. Students work on their projects for a month under the guidance of the mentors and what follows is a thorough judging process where the winners of Winter of Code get direct interviews with SDSLabs. This competition provides a great platform for students to learn and expand their knowledge base. There is another event organised by SDSLabs known as Makers. It is an opportunity for the people who didn’t get selected in Winter of Code to showcase their skills. As a part of Makers, students are allowed to develop anything that they want to make and if they need help, they can easily contact mentors from SDSLabs via the public chat portal. Another way of getting into SDSLabs is by following a standard and lengthy procedure. Like a lot of other recruitments, it starts with a test. This well known, albeit scary test, mostly consists of questions based on web-development and concepts in computer science like networking and programming languages. After the test, the short-listed students are called for an interview that consists of 2 rounds. In the first round, students are given logical questions and guesstimates to solve and to gauge their problem solving abilities. After this, they are made to sit for a technical interview round wherein 2 seniors

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conduct an interview that is almost indistinguishable from the kind of technical interview rounds that one would give if they were to join a tech company. Seniors from SDSLabs conduct sessions and workshops, hold lectures and talks, and even host coding competitions and hackathons. There is something for everyone. Whether you want to learn, participate in hackathons and win big prizes, or prepare for The Google Summer of Code, you can do it all here. SDSLabs has a great track record at The Google Summer of Code, every year a number of students from SDSLabs crack this prestigious competition.

Projects by SDSLabs Cerebro Cerebro, a platform for hosting data hackathons exclusively in IITR developed by SDSLabs. It’s challenges and competitions are maintained by members of SDSLabs and Data Science Group. The backend stack is written in Laravel PHP framework and the frontend SPA client in ReactJS. Rubeus Rubeus is a 2D cross-platform game engine developed indigenously in SDSLabs. It derives its workflow from a lot of popular game engines and is specifically designed for new game developers. It has been written completely in C++17 and broCLI, the CLI tool to create its games, is written in Golang. Study Portal Study Portal is the knowledge hub of IIT Roorkee. Through Study Portal, anyone can share open courseware files, videos, presentations etc. Currently over 4,000 files have been shared across 500 courses and total downloads has crossed 80,000. The tech stack includes Toro microframework and Handlebars.js for templating.


SDSLabs : A group of young like-minded technocrats working to expand their knowledge of Computer Science through its practical application

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Erdős Erdős is an application for math geeks to, try out new mathematical problems and keep track of who solves what. Named after one of the most prolific mathematicians of all times, Paul Erdős, it is a portal for users to test their mettle on various mathematical problems, some of which may require users to write code. Backdoor Backdoor is a platform for computer security enthusiasts to show their talent in a competitive environment. After opening up for users outside of IIT Roorkee this year this always online CTF (Capture the Flag) competition has quickly garnered over 2000 users worldwide. Code Village Codevillage is an online judge with a core philosophy of improving the programming skills of the IITR junta. Several problems related to algorithms and programming are available here that anyone can try their hands on. Whether you are a young padawan or a jedi master, you’ll - find problems here suitable for your skills. Brute DC DC by SDSLabs aims to create a more visually pleasing interface over the generic DC++. While DC++ is required in some way to use the application, you, the user can view all content in a better way with proper design.

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Browsing content becomes a magical experience without compromising information about the users who share content from their laptops. Muzi With over 130,000 tracks by 11,000 artists and updating daily, Muzi is the one stop online music player for the IIT Roorkee intranet. Muzi is a one page JS app with the backend written in PHP. Applications like Nano have been developed over this backend also. Gasper Gasper is an intelligent Platform as a Service (PaaS) used for deploying and managing applications and databases in any cloud topology. Think of it as the SDSLabs’ version of AWS (Amazon Web Services), or SWS if you want to (SDSLabs Web Services). Rootex Rootex is a Windows based 3D multithreaded game engine written in C++ and powers an in-production game being developed at SDSLabs. This a really big project for SDSLabs, the new opportunities and possibilities it brings are endless.

There are a lot of interesting events coming up in the future, SDSLabs has a lot in store for the people of ‘R-land’.


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IIT Tech Ambit Sept Issue  

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