Agri Business

‘AI will help farmers decide on what to grow’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 22, 2020 Published on September 18, 2020

(Clockwise from top left) S Adikesavan, Chief General Manager, State Bank of India; Vinson Kurian, Senior Deputy Editor, BusinessLine; Jatin Singh, Founder and Managing Director, Skymet Weather; Himanshu Goyal, India Business Leader for IBM’s The Weather Company, at the webinar

The government should explore the possibility of having an exclusive income tax cess, just as it has for education and health, for developing the agricultural infrastructure in the country, said S Adikesavan, Chief General Manager of the State Bank of India, while participating in a webinar organised by BusinessLine on Friday.


“We all know that the government does not have unlimited resources. So it is time we think of having some kind of cess, similar to that levied on income tax for education and health. And we can use it exclusively for creating agriculture infrastructure and technology development in agriculture without leakages,” asked Adikesavan, while putting forth what he said were his personal views.

Also participating in the BusinessLine Knowledge Series webinar titled ‘Monsoon-proofing India’s Growth Story’ were Himanshu Goyal, India Business Leader for IBM’s The Weather Company, and Jatin Singh, Founder and Managing Director of India’s first private weather forecaster, Skymet Weather. The webinar was moderated by Vinson Kurian, BusinessLine’s Senior Deputy Editor.

Focus on data

Goyal said Indian farmers have both controllable and uncontrollable variables to deal with. While controllable variables are irrigation, fertilisation, seed genetics and pest and disease control, uncontrollable ones relate to fluctuating soil moisture, precipitation, soil physical and chemical properties, and temperature, etc.

“The worry is always the uncontrollable variables…Given the capability of artificial intelligence today and a lot of data, we at IBM are really focussing on data that we can bring to the farmer. Now if these data points are articulated, a lot of modelling could be done to put together a sense of what will happen on the farm over the next three to six months,” Goyal said. Based on that, farmers can take well-studied decisions on what to grow and what not to grow, he said.

Goyal said they are already working with the Karnataka government on a project to figure out what will happen to crops like maize and tomato and what kind of arrival prices farmers can expect when the crops hit the market months later.

Indicating that India is already facing extreme weather events relating to climate change, Singh said, while there was only one drought per decade between 1900 and 2000, there were five droughts and three below-normal monsoons in the next 20 years until this year. Between 2020 and 2030, there would be more such extreme weather events, said the Skymet chief.

Monsoon threat

With regard to this year’s monsoon, he said, yet another low is emerging from the Bay of Bengal which would give another good shower as the monsoon retreats. The monsoon this year is above normal with 107 per cent of the Long Period Average so far.

However, Singh added that if the monsoon prolongs for yet another fortnight, there would be major post-harvest losses, in addition to the crop losses that have happened in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, he cautioned.

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Published on September 18, 2020
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