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Government to deploy big data analytics, AI and IoT in agriculture

The government and private companies alike are taking the first steps to deploy big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to gain insights into and offer solutions to problems in India’s agriculture sector.

To experiment with such technology, the NITI Aayog, the government’s main think-tank, will start a pilot project on “precision agriculture” using AI in 10 districts to be selected from seven states: Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

This month, the NITI Aayog signed an agreement with software firm IBM to develop a model for crop-yield predictions using AI so that farmers can be provided real-time advisories in these states.

While the project is aimed at improving yields through last-mile solutions, the private sector is also wagering money on so-called smart-agriculture systems. Companies such as CropIn and Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions, say they are equipped to provide a range of technologies based on AI in areas such as pest surveillance, climate control, controlled irrigation, and warehouse management.

A statement from Bosch said it is looking to offer products in precision agriculture, smart irrigation, remote sensing technology, drone applications, and cold storage solutions that rely on IoT. The Internet of Things essentially refers to smart devices connected to the web.

“Bosch smart irrigation controller called Aquazen is an IoT-enabled, remotely controlled cross-platform system equipped with Big Data Analytics and Intelligent Irrigation Scheduling. It’s accessible through both web and mobile applications that are hosted on enterprise cloud,” a company spokesperson said.

The company also offers polyhouse monitoring systems that can create automatic SMS alerts for any change in temperature, humidity, and soil moisture in such farms. Its sensors can also detect pest intrusions in polyhouse cultivation. CropIn Technology also offers products such as SmartFarm, which it claims digitises every aspect of farming for more efficiency.

While many of these private-sector solutions are aimed at agri-businesses and enterprises, the public-sector driven NITI Aayog’s pilot project will aim at improving yields of small landholders. “IoT technologies will have an increasing role in many spheres. Policymakers dealing with traditional problems of agriculture might benefit from insights thrown up by data analytics. For example, water-scarce Israel has successfully used such technologies in micro-irrigation,” said Anil Kadam, a retired scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

The project will come up with “climate-aware cognitive farming techniques” and systems of crop monitoring, including early warning on pest attacks and disease outbreaks by harnessing AI, an official said. It also includes deployment of weather advisory, rich satellite and enhanced weather-forecast information along with IT & mobile applications with a focus on improving crop yields and cost savings, the official added.


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