Interventions

Microsoft ICRISAT develop sowing application for smallholder farmers

Microsoft in collaboration with ICRISAT and AP government has develped a sowing application for smallholder farmers combined with a Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard to help them achieve optimal harvests.
Microsoft ICRISAT develop sowing application for smallholder farmers

A new Sowing Application for farmers combined with a Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard for Andhra Pradesh. The app to help farmers achieve optimal harvests by advising on the best time to sow crops depending on weather conditions, soil and other indicators. This has been made possible through a partnership between the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Microsoft and the Andhra Pradesh government. The pioneering digital tools are released by ICRISAT with development undertaken by Microsoft. The Personalised Village Advisory Dashboard has especially been developed to enable officials of Andhra Pradesh Primary Sector Mission (APPSM) – Rythu Kosam, to better manage programmes of scale.

“Bringing scattered data together and developing an analytical tool that is comprehensive and gives accurate predictions to the farmers, is urgently needed. We are excited to work with Microsoft to enhance incomes and improve the lives of smallholder farmers, and this is going to boost our digital agriculture initiative in a big way,” said Dr. David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT.

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.

Commenting on this development, Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D), said, “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. 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 famers.”

The Sowing Application utilises powerful artificial intelligence to interface with weather forecasting models provided by USA based aWhere Inc. and extensive data including rainfall over the last 45 years as well as 10 years of groundnut sowing progress data for Kurnool district. This data is then downscaled to build predictability and guide farmers to pick the ideal sowing week. When combined with other data collected from the Rythu Kosam project, it can create rich datasets that can be processed to build predictive models for the farmers.  

Similarly, the Personalized Village Advisory Dashboard developed by Microsoft provides an instant overview across several environmental factors that determine a healthy crop yield. In the pilot that has been recently launched, information will be sent to farmers about the sowing date via SMS in Telugu. Data collected manually from farms in 13 districts of the state by ICRISAT field officers for Rythu Kosam has been uploaded to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. Using Business Intelligence (BI) tools, this dashboard provides important insights around soil health, fertiliser recommendations, and seven days’ weather forecast derived from the world’s best available weather observations systems and global forecast models. This data is then downscaled for the highest possible accuracy at the village level, to transform how smallholder farmers tackle climate change to drive effective decision-making.

ICRISAT is providing technical backstopping to Rythu Kosam, which is aimed at positioning the state among the best three performing states by 2022. This technical input involves the establishment of pilot sites of learning in 13 districts of 10,000 ha each; upgrading soil analysis laboratories; technical support for planning; as well as adopting an Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy to benefit smallholder farmers through public-private-partnerships; and promoting private investments in the state. 

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