From sowing to markets, enter Artificial Intelligence

New initiative in south India brings multiple tech together 

October 31, 2019:  On a sunny field in the delta region of South India, a group of farmers watched with interest as two young people rigged up some equipment. As they got ready, there was a shout from the crowd as a small object buzzed out into the skies. The farmers were witnessing the demonstration and launch of Internet of Things (IoT) and how digital agriculture can be integrated into farm activities. They were looking also, for the first time, at a drone circling their fields.

Ten villages, including the difficult-to-pronounce ‘Tirupazhanam’ are part of a pilot project that integrates multiple sources of information and agriculture-related data – from sowing to market decisions – in one integrated solution. This unique effort to crunch Big Data for providing need-based information to farmers is being jointly launched by MSSRF along with Makers Hive (MH) as a part of a Proof of Concept. Over 300 farmers 200 acres of land in Thiruvaiyaru will be reached by this initiative.

Automatic Weather Stations, Drones, Soil Sensors, Digital Boards at Village Knowledge Centres of MSSRF and Mobile Applications deployed in this project, guide the farmers at each stage of the cultivation. The programme aims to provide valuable recommendations and advisories on crop management, soil and nutrient management, weed and pest management, helping the farmers to make decisions. For instance, if the collected data is analysed and shows that there might be a pest infestation in a particular crop, immediate precautionary solutions will be transferred to farmers to stop further infestation. This also prevents larger crop areas being affected. It also prevents farmers from unnecessary usage of pesticides while providing economic benefits.

The project was launched recently in Thanjavur, South India. During the inauguration Mr. Pranav Vempati, the CEO of Makers’ Hive, gave a detailed account on the implementation of the technology part in the project and its expected outcomes. Dr N Anil Kumar, the Executive Director of MSSRF said that smart farming should be sustainable so that smallholder farmers improve productivity and sustain that productivity. Mr Balasubramanian, a farmer at Thirupazhanam said that the weather forecast information helps them to schedule the work at time before rains and the forewarning is also very helpful during the harvest time so that they harvest before rains avoiding loss. G Selvaraj, another farmer from Thiruvaiyaru thanked MSSRF for sending the farm advisories as SMS. He said that the Plant Clinics are very useful to identify the diseases, and then the information sent about the medicine as SMS are useful that he shows the SMS to the Vendor to get the appropriate medicine.

MSSRF will implement this programme assuring information transfer to the farmers, while MH will focus on solutions through technology. Soil and Water Management Research Institute at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute at Aduthurai and the Tamil Nadu Agriculture Department have joined hands with MSSRF for providing the locally needed agricultural information.

The technology partner of this project ‘MH’, is a young start-up company that aims to render end-to-end agricultural solution by harnessing the modern developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning tools in the project ‘Smart Farming for Evergreen Revolution’ of MSSRF.