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How is Microsoft’s AI intervention helping Indian farmers?

India now has the third largest concentration of AI for Earth grantees, following the United States and Canada.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
AI For farmers

An AI Sowing App powered by the Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite, which includes Machine Learning and Power BI, was created by Microsoft in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Participating farmers receive seeding advice from the app on the best time to sow. The farmers do not have to invest any money or install any sensors in their fields. All they require is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages.

Read more: Digital Agriculture: Farmers in India are using AI to increase crop yields - Microsoft Stories India


According to Microsoft, the AI Sowing App that was developed draws on more than 30 years of climate data from 1986 to 2015, combined with real-time weather information, and then uses forecasting models to determine the optimal time to plant, the ideal sowing depth, how much manure to apply and much more.

Read more: Harnessing the power of AI to transform agriculture - The Official Microsoft Blog

The app was launched in 2016 and 175 groundnut farmers from the state of Andhra Pradesh participated. Based on sowing advisories such as sowing date, land preparation, soil test-based fertilizer application, and so on, farmers are able to achieve a 30% higher yield per hectare than the last year.

A greater range of crops, including maize, rice, and cotton, were covered by the initiative in 2017, which reached more than 3000 farmers. Depending on the crop and the area, the average increase in production that year varied from 10% to 30%, according to Microsoft.

Read more: Microsoft and ICRISAT’s Intelligent Cloud pilot for Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh increase crop yield for farmers

AI for Earth grant recipients 

According to ICRISAT, in 2018, Microsoft announced grants to provide artificial intelligence (AI) technology to organizations engaged in solving environmental challenges.

One of the organizations ICRISAT will receive access to Microsoft Azure and AI computing resources.

India now has the third largest concentration of AI for Earth grantees, following the United States and Canada.

Read more: ICRISAT awarded Microsoft’s AI for Earth grant to promote environmental sustainability

The grantees from India, chosen based on their efforts to conserve protect and rebuild the environment with AI, are:

  1. Indian Institute of Technology
  2. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad
  3. Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru
  4. Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi
  5. Symbiosis Institute of Technology, Pune
  6. India Institute of Science, Bangalore
  7. Symbiosis Institute of Technology, Pune 

NITI Aayog and Microsoft collaboration

In 2018, NITI Aayog and Microsoft India announced an agreement to leverage the benefits of AI for the growth of the nation. Under the agreement, Microsoft was to provide NITI Aayog with advanced AI-based solutions to address challenges in agriculture. Microsoft was set to develop farm advisory services to help increase crop yield, pest detection, and pest incident prediction as part of projects across locations identified by NITI Aayog.

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