Here’s how Artificial Intelligence is going to change the way farming is done in the country. Right from sowing to harvesting and then to post-harvest help, the AI solutions promise informed inputs to farmers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem.

The solutions are going to give them heads up on the likelihood of rain, outbreak of diseases or attack of pests and on soil health condition. The information gathered from the field using satellite images and sensors on balloons would be juxtaposed with historical weather and other agronomic data to generate customised data for a specific farmer on a specific crop.

Microsoft has tied up with International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to develop a system designed specially to suit the needs of farmers in countries like India, while IT major Tech Mahindra is planning to have a team of 1,000 employees to focus exclusive on its initiative for agriculture.

Microsoft, Icrisat tie up

After piloting the solution in 14 districts in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka with over 3,000 farmers taking part in it, the Microsoft-ICRISAT duo is planning to scale up this experiment to cover 10,000 farmers next year.

Keeping in view the cost-sensitive environment and small holdings, Microsoft is using tethered balloons to take pictures of farms to gather information on the soil and the crop.

These pictures will be patched and processed to churn out the tailored advisory for the farmers who are registered for the programme.

“We don’t bombard the farmers with a plethora of messages. We keep the messages very short and space them out over days. If you send them more, they might lose interest,” a senior official of ICRISAT has said.

The Hyderabad-based ICRISAT is taking care of the implementation of the initiative. The solution was demonstrated to a group of journalists as part of the two-day Microsoft Media Days. “We will cover the entire crop cycle from the days of planning for the season, to sowing and then selling,” a Microsoft official said.

Meanwhile, Tech Mahindra has developed Farm Guru, a solar-powered portable unit, to assist farmers from the time of sowing, through the cropping season and then to post-harvest phase.

Likely to be priced in the range of ₹30,000, the mobile unit gets inputs from sensors and send them to the back-office for processing and get back to farmers with advisories.

The Farm Guru unit was showcased at the Mission Innovation (MI-18), the annual innovations event organised by Tech Mahindra, here on Thursday.

TechM plans 1,000 HR

“The information gathered from various sensors will help farmers generate actionable insights in the preparation of soil, sowing, crop management, harvest and post harvest,” Subrahmanyam Sista, Chief Engineer (Integrated Engineering Solutions), told BusinessLine .

Tech Mahindra’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer CP Gurnani is excited about the opportunities for the company on the farm front. “You have to have such technological help for farmers keeping in view the farming conditions in the country. We are going to have about 1,000 people in our initiative that is focussed on agricultural solutions,” he said.