The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Microsoft and the Andhra Pradesh government are working in a partnership programme to develop a new sowing application for farmers, combined with a personalised village advisory dashboard, for Andhra Pradesh. The app is expected to see feedback and radical improvements for agriculture and small-holder farmers in the state. This is a pilot project and based on its success, ICRISAT and Microsoft intend to extend this programme to other states and developing countries as well.
The sowing app is to help farmers achieve optimal harvests by advising on the best time to sow crops depending on weather conditions, soil and other indicators. The digital tools are released by ICRISAT with development undertaken by Microsoft. The personalised village advisory dashboard has been especially developed to enable officials of the Andhra Pradesh Primary Sector Mission (APPSM) — Rythu Kosam — to better manage programmes of scale.
“The project team will gauge the usage of the app by farmers, and will continue to improve it and amend its features based on the feedback and impact we get from pilot project in Andhra Pradesh,” Suhas Wani, director, Asia Programme, ICRISAT, told FE. Based on the feedback, the app will be rolled out in other Indian states and possibly in other countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Wani added.
The AP project is a pilot project. For each of the 13 districts in AP, comparative advantages have been mapped. Based on this, district-level strategy was identified, so that in the next five years, Andhra Pradesh can realise double-digit growth. In each district, about 10,000 hectares was identified across different mandals, or administrative divisions, and four-five villages and 100 to 200 farmers. Based on the district strategy, ICRISAT is working with these farmers and passing on its scientific knowledge. Continuous data collection on crop and yield is collected on a monthly basis by field officers and sent to ICRISAT.
“Bringing a lot of scattered data together and developing an analytical tool that is comprehensive and gives accurate predictions to the farmers. We will work with Microsoft to enhance incomes and improve the lives of small holder farmers and this is going to boost our digital agriculture initiative in a big way,” David Bergvinson, director general, ICRISAT, said.
ICRISAT has adopted Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning (ability of computers to learn without being specifically programmed) and Power BI, or business intelligence, to empower farmers and government officials with technology and promote digital farming practices in the state.
“We are pleased to support ICRISAT to drive impact for farmers through our technology. Agriculture is a crucial economic contributor in India and the implementation of advanced analytics in agriculture will help streamline and strengthen farming practices,” Anil Bhansali, MD, Microsoft India (R&D), said. The sowing app and personalised village advisory dashboard are developed to provide powerful cloud-based predictive analytics to empower farmers with crucial information and insights to help reduce crop failures and increase yield, in turn, reducing stress and generating better income.
“We firmly believe in the potential of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and Power BI to bring efficiencies not only in agriculture, but also in healthcare, education, and beyond. This is a significant start for digital agriculture and can reap benefits in multiple ways as governments and stakeholders discover the potential for technology to unlock and offer multiple solutions for farmers,” he said.