Yield disruption by 2018 floods inspired Alappuzha siblings to form agri startup Fuselage

(From left) Fuselage MD Devan Chandrasekharan, CTO Athul Chandran and director Devika Chandrasekharan. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: The 2018 deluge in Kerala is now part of a collective memory and material for popular culture. A film, released five years after the floods, depicting the struggles and survival of the people has turned out to be a blockbuster. And, a business born out of an undesired impact of the natural calamity is also making money and going places.

Fuselage Innovations, founded by two siblings based at Cherthala of Alappuzha district, was started as a solution to address the adverse impact caused by the successive floods of 2018 and 2019 in the agriculture sector. A lesser noticed consequence the floods left is that it caused nutritional changes in the soil leading to a disruption in yield patterns. Devan Chandrasekharan and his elder sister Devika Chandrasekharan noticed the changes in their own paddyfields at Cherthala. This led to the launch of their agritech startup, Fuselage, in mid-2020.

Fuselage provides drone-based agricultural surveillance and spraying solutions, according to the diverse situations and needs of the land and crops. The company functions at the Technology Innovation Centre of the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) in Kalamassery. The firm, which has already built up a customer base of 5,600 farmers in five states, has now been selected for the UK government’s Global Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP). The achievement makes the Kerala-based company eligible for relocation to the European nation. Once shifted to the UK, the Department of Internal Trade there will help Fuselage, especially around exporting.

“We hail from an agrarian family. After the two floods there had been a change in the patterns of yields in different regions. The yield increased in some places while it went down in other places. In our place, Cherthala, we noticed a decrease in the yields. There was a UN report which spoke about these changes. The idea of a tech company to help farmers struck us in this context,” Devan, a BTech in Aeronautical Engineering, told Onmanorama. Devika, an electrical and electronics engineer, came on board after serving as the director of a solar power company. The siblings consider their mother Ambika, who managed the dairy farm at their house, as an inspiration to take the entrepreneurial plunge.

What Fuselage does
Devan and Devika discussed the idea with the Kerala Agriculture University and with the help of the institute they developed a prototype. They launched the company in the service model, offering solutions to farmers on demand. Their major products are two drones, one for aerial plant survey and the other for spraying. The service is offered for a per-acre or per-service remuneration.

There are three steps involved in the service provided by Fuselage. It starts with surveillance of crops. Then the data, in the form of images captured by the drone, is analysed using some AI tools. The third and final step is the application of bio control agents as per the crops require. The company helps farmers reduce use of pesticides and resources with its controlled spot application model. “Often when farmers identify a problem in their crops, they apply pesticides and other solutions to the entire land. This is unnecessary. Our data analytics help them identify the exact areas which need solutions,” Devan said.

The company is set to enter into the product model for revenue with sales of customised drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The process of product certification by the Government of India is over, Devan said. The company has already sold around 25 drones in various parts of the country. Devan claims their products to be totally indigenous while the drone market in the country is dominated by Chinese players.

The company’s client base includes corporate giants Harrison Malayalam and Synthite. It got a fillip in the nascent stage when it landed an opportunity to work in the tribal sectors of Munnar as part of the UNDP Green Innovation Fund.

The bootsrapped company has received a handful of grants and recognitions from governments and corporates. It is eyeing investments in the near future with the development of a couple of new products. Devan said the company is already in the early revenue stage.

In the management structure, Devan is the managing director while Devika is director. Athul Chandran and Nithin Geevarghese take care of technical matters. Dr Berin Pathrose, entomologist from Kerala Agriculture University, CA Girishankar and Dr A Seema, Head of C-MET, are the company’s mentors.

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