Dawn of a new era as AI is introduced into Agriculture in India

April 27, 2017 12:00 AM

Farmers in many parts of India are largely dependent on timely rainfall for fruitful harvest and subsequent profits. Uncertainty surrounding this phenomenon has also haunted them since the beginning of civilization.

Over time however, this uncertainty had reduced significantly as farmers back in the day could almost accurately plant crops based on previous experience with weather conditions. This wisdom has been passed on from one generation of farmers to the other.

Gradual onset of global warming and climate changes, over the last century, have slowly-yet steadily put this wisdom out of use. As for rain-fed farmers preparing for agriculture, soil-water equation is fragile and any delay in rainfall could easily mar the harvest.

When age old systems fail, look to the future

This is perhaps the mindset with which farmers in Andhra Pradesh embraced the idea of integration of AI in assisting them sow their crops.

When the difference between a profitable year and failed harvest is timely information on the simple ‘when to sow?’, scientists of ICRISAT and Engineers at Microsoft joined forces to bring out an application that uses powerful cloud-based predictive analytics to arrive at a precise date for sowing.

This app uses Microsoft Cortana intelligence Suite (including machine learning and power BI) in imparting an overview of factors that determine a healthy crop yield. It even gives insights on soil health and fertilizer recommendations in addition to seven days’ weather forecast!

The program was started with 175 farmers across 7 villages in Andhra Pradesh. Farmers were asked to wait until an SMS is sent to them to start sowing. Despite their lack of complete faith in the use of technology in fetching higher yields, these farmers followed the instructions as imparted.

During the rainy season that year, the efforts of scientists and engineers as well as the long wait of farmers, finally paid off. A record yield with an increase between 30 – 40% was noted.

With new found faith in this new system and a will to integrate it with their farming methods, 2000 more farmers are all set to join the movement.

A cocktail of modern technology and traditional wisdom is soundly in place to douse the crops to climb yield records this year.

Simply put, all of this inevitably trickles down into healthier crops and happier farms, the aim with which ICRISAT and Microsoft had set out on this journey together.

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