Over 100 participants including researchers, data analysts, computer programmers, developers among stakeholders came together at a two-day hackathon, to explore digital solutions to address issues related to agricultural development in India.
Hack4Farming (12-13 May 2016) was held at the headquarters of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India with support from Microsoft, aWhere, USA and T-Hub, Hyderabad.
Addressing the event, Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications Department, Government of Telangana, India said, “Most of the important breakthroughs are coming from young minds or from the people who are doing things on their own. Improving agricultural productivity, ensuring sustainable food security, not just for this generation but for generations to come, is a very important challenge; and considered to be a problem which perhaps does not have any significant solutions. But now we are very optimistic with the work institutions like ICRISAT are doing and the Telangana Government is at the forefront of promoting innovation.”
At the end of the intensive two days of creative brainstorming, a team DARe- Digital Agri. Rural e-Marketing, won the prize of US$2000 for an innovative model. They also won the opportunity to get business and sector specific mentorship services with the startup incubator T-Hub to develop their idea into a viable business or product.
Their model was chosen by a team of judges for the cloud based application that will help connect large number of smallholder farmers with multiple buyers leading to minimize the middleman’s margins and farmers’ transactions cost. It will help in real-time price discovery using current e-mandi price, recent price trends, variety, and other quality parameters. The application will also provide farmers location specific weather forecasts and information on technology providers in their locality.
“We are delighted to support ICRISAT in the Hack4farming initiative, which aims to unlock the benefit of intelligent cloud solutions to positively impact the agriculture sector. The two-day hackathon had mentors from Microsoft to guide participants in their quest to build solutions using intelligent cloud technology including Microsoft Azure Machine Learning and Power BI to support farmers. The hackathon has highlighted that technology, when harnessed correctly, has the potential to transform lives and have a major socio-economic impact.” said Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India.
Speaking on the occasion, ICRISAT Director General, David Bergvinson said, “Digital technology can accelerate the pace of developing and delivering sustainable and equitable solutions to smallholder farmers and in so doing enable us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before 2030. This includes narrowing the knowledge gap between researchers and farmers; providing timely and targeted information to farmers to manage weather and market variability and integrating farmers into profitable markets. Digital technology such as cloud computing and mobile phones provide an important platform for youth to see agriculture as a viable business. These tools will also help us manage natural resources and support a modern food system that delivers safe and nutritious food to all consumers.”
In order to make the best decisions possible in a changing climate, Indian farmers and agricultural value chain actors need access to comprehensive information: weather forecasts, ideal dates for planting and other farm operations, appropriate crop varieties, potential return on investment, and more. But this information is often difficult to access, analyse and communicate in a timely and accessible format to farmers.
Hack4Farming was focused on weather, systems modeling, and their potential impacts on the Indian agriculture sector. Teams explored how to leverage new modeling techniques (from ICRISAT researchers), weather data (from aWhere, USA) and Intelligent Cloud (from Microsoft) to address these information gaps, and benefit agriculture stakeholders such as seed producers, service providers, and farmers across India.
“There is a lot of potential to develop new digital technologies in Hyderabad, seen right here at the Hack4Farming. We want to encourage new projects and ideas by these developers and other stakeholders to improve the lives of farmers and increase the agricultural potential of India,” said Rama Iyer, Senior Vice President; Head -Strategic Alliances & Innovation, T-Hub, Hyderabad.
Hack4Farming hackathons bring together agriculture experts with local technical talent in the places where high-resolution weather data is most needed. Events are intensive and collaborative – participants share experience and skills to brainstorm new ideas, new business plans, and new technology solutions for farming. Each Hack4Farming event is unique in the group of experts and techies it pulls together and the challenge it seeks to address.
“We believe that better information can have an enormous impact on food production to help solve the challenge of feeding a growing global population. In order to realise this, innovative, scalable, and sustainable solutions are required. Hack4Farming is global in scope and we will continue to expand these events to new regions, working with local partners, to help seed innovative solutions that improve lives worldwide,” said Stewart Collis, Chief Technical Officer, aWhere.