NITI Aayog, IBM to employ AI in agriculture

The policy think tank of the Government of India and the US-based technology giant will collaborate to develop precision agriculture using Artificial Intelligence (AI)

May 4, 2018

The partnership aims to use technology to provide insights to farmers to boost crop productivity, soil yield, control agricultural inputs with the overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes

The programme will be piloted across 10 aspirational districts in the first phase across the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh

The project will introduce climate-aware cognitive farming techniques, identify systems of crop monitoring and provide early warning on pest and disease outbreak based on AI innovations

India boasts of 20 agro-climatic regions as well as 46 of the 60 soil types in the world; During 2017-18 crop year, food grain production was recorded at around 277.5 million tonnes

The National Institution for Transforming India, or the NITI Aayog, a policy think tank of the Government of India, has entered into an agreement with IBM, a US-based IT major, to develop precision agriculture using Artificial Intelligence (AI). On May 4th, NITI Aayog and IBM signed a statement of intent (SoI) to develop a crop yield prediction model using AI to provide real time advisory to farmers. The programme will be piloted across 10 aspirational districts in the first phase across the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The partnership aims to work together towards use of technology to provide insights to farmers to improve crop productivity, soil yield, control agricultural inputs with the overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes. India holds the world’s second largest agricultural land in the world and aims to doubling farm income by 2022.

At the signing event, Amitabh Kant, the chief executive of NITI Aayog, said that bringing in future technologies such as AI into practical use would have tremendous benefits for the practice of agriculture in the country, improving efficiency in resource-use, crop yields and scientific farming. He added that the ten aspirational districts chosen will be invigorated with cutting-edge technological support to leapfrog development of agri-based economies. The scope of this project is also to introduce and make available climate-aware cognitive farming techniques and identifying systems of crop monitoring, early warning on pest and disease outbreak based on advanced AI innovations. Additional benefits include deployment of weather advisory, rich satellite and enhanced weather forecast information along with IT and mobile applications with a focus on improving crop yield and cost savings through better farm management.

IBM, a global leader in technological innovations, will be using AI to provide all the relevant data and platform for developing technological models for improving agricultural output and productivity for various crops and soil types, for the identified districts. NITI Aayog, on its part, will facilitate the inclusion of more stakeholders on the ground for effective last mile utilisation and extension, using the insights generated through these models. India is currently the largest producer of spices, pulses, milk, tea, cashew and jute, and the second largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane, cotton and oilseeds. The nation boasts of 20 agro-climatic regions as well as 46 of the 60 soil types in the world. During 2017-18 crop year, food grain production was recorded at around 277.5 million tonnes. Agricultural output and income is anticipated to improve in the coming years owing to increased investment.