The Challenges for Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

The Challenges for Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture
A Bunch of maize farmers stands huddled round an agronomist and his laptop on the side of an irrigation pivot in central South Africa. The agronomist has just flown over the pivot with a hybrid UAV that takes off and lands using propellers yet maintains distance and speed for scanning vast hectares of land through using its fixed wings. The UAV is fitted with a 4 spectral band precision sensor that conducts onboard processing right away after the flight, permitting farmers and field group of workers to address, nearly in an instant, any crop anomalies that the sensor could have recorded, making the information assortment in reality real-time.

Data Accuracy

In this instance, the farmers and agronomist wish to specialised device to provide them an accurate plant inhabitants rely. It’s been 10 days because the maize emerged and the farmer desires to resolve if there are any portions of the sphere that require replanting because of a lack of emergence or wind damage, which will also be critical in the early levels of the summer time rainy season.

At this enlargement stage of the plant’s construction, the farmer has every other 10 days to behavior any replanting before nearly all of his fertilizer and chemical programs wish to happen. Once these were applied, it turns into economically unviable to take corrective motion, making any longer collected data ancient and helpful only to inform long run practices for the season to return.

Machine studying is when this same machine, in step with a specified set of protocols, improves in its skill to handle problems and goals associated with the environment as the statistical nature of the knowledge it receives will increase.

The software completes its processing in underneath 15 minutes producing a plant population depend map. It’s tricky to snatch just how spectacular that is, with out understanding that just over a yr in the past it could have taken 3 to five days to process the exact same data set, illustrating the developments which were achieved in precision agriculture and remote sensing in recent years. With the tool having been evolved within the United States at the similar variety of crops in apparently identical conditions, the agronomist feels confident that the tool will produce a near accurate result.

As the map seems at the screen, the agronomist’s face starts to drop. Having walked throughout the planted rows before the flight to achieve a bodily understanding of the placement at the ground, he knows the instant he sees the data on his display that the plant count is not proper, and so do the farmers, even with their limited understanding of find out how to learn faraway sensing maps.

Potential for Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

The Potential for Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture
Hypothetically, it’s possible for machines to discover ways to resolve any drawback on earth when it comes to the bodily interaction of all issues inside a defined or contained atmosphere…by means of using synthetic intelligence and device finding out.

At this enlargement stage of the plant’s construction, the farmer has every other 10 days to behavior any replanting before nearly all of his fertilizer and chemical programs wish to happen

The concept of artificial intelligence is one where a machine can understand its atmosphere, and through a undeniable capability of versatile rationality, take motion to address a specified purpose related to that environment. Machine studying is when this same machine, in step with a specified set of protocols, improves in its skill to handle problems and goals associated with the environment as the statistical nature of the knowledge it receives will increase. Put extra plainly, because the device receives an increasing quantity of identical units of information that may be categorised into specified protocols, its skill to rationalize increases, allowing it to higher “predict” on a spread of results.

The upward thrust of digital agriculture and its comparable applied sciences has opened a wealth of new data alternatives. Remote sensors, satellites, and UAVs can gather knowledge 24 hours in keeping with day over a whole box. These can monitor plant health, soil condition, temperature, humidity, and so on. The quantity of knowledge those sensors can generate is overwhelming, and the importance of the numbers is hidden within the avalanche of that knowledge.

The idea is to permit farmers to gain a greater understanding of the situation at the ground via complex technology (akin to far flung sensing) that can inform them more about their state of affairs than they may be able to see with the bare eye. And not simply more accurately but also more briefly than seeing it strolling or driving during the fields.

Remote sensors permit algorithms to interpret a box’s setting as statistical knowledge that may be understood and helpful to farmers for decision-making. Algorithms procedure the data, adapting and learning based on the data gained. The more inputs and statistical data collected, the easier the set of rules shall be at predicting a range of outcomes. And the aim is that farmers can use this artificial intelligence to achieve their goal of a better harvest thru making better decisions in the box.

In 2011, IBM, via its R&D Headquarters in Haifa, Israel, introduced an agricultural cloud-computing project. The challenge, in collaboration with quite a few specialised IT and agricultural companions, had one purpose in thoughts – to take a number of academic and physical information resources from an agricultural atmosphere and switch these into automated predictive solutions for farmers that would help them in making real-time decisions in the field.

“Algorithm” agriculture

Interviews with one of the most IBM undertaking group contributors on the time published that the group believed it used to be completely imaginable to “algorithm” agriculture, meaning that algorithms may clear up any problem in the world. Earlier that yr, IBM’s cognitive learning device, Watson, competed in Jeopardy towards former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings with astonishing results. Several years later, Watson went on to provide ground-breaking achievements in the box of medicine, resulting in IBM’s agricultural projects being closed down or scaled down. Ultimately, IBM realized the duty of producing cognitive system finding out answers for agriculture used to be much more tricky than even they could have idea.

So why did the undertaking have such luck in medication but no longer agriculture?

What Makes Agriculture Different?

Agriculture is one of the maximum tough fields to comprise for the purpose of statistical quantification.

Even inside a single box, stipulations are at all times converting from one phase to the next. There’s unpredictable weather, changes in soil quality, and the ubiquitous risk that pests and disease may pay a consult with. Growers would possibly really feel their prospects are just right for an upcoming harvest, but till that day arrives, the end result will always be uncertain.

By comparability, our bodies are a contained atmosphere. Agriculture takes place in nature, among ecosystems of interacting organisms and activity, and crop production takes place inside that ecosystem atmosphere. But these ecosystems don’t seem to be contained. They are matter to climatic occurrences comparable to climate programs, which affect upon hemispheres as an entire, and from continent to continent. Therefore, understanding easy methods to arrange an agricultural environment approach taking literally many hundreds if now not hundreds of things into account.

What might occur with the similar seed and fertilizer program in the United States’ Midwest region is almost without a doubt unrelated to what may occur with the similar seed and fertilizer program in Australia or South Africa. a Couple Of factors that might have an effect on on variance would most often come with the measurement of rain in line with unit of a crop planted, soil sort, patterns of soil degradation, sunlight hours, temperature and so forth.

So the issue with deploying device learning and synthetic intelligence in agriculture is not that scientists lack the capacity to develop techniques and protocols to begin to address the most important of growers’ concerns; the problem is that usually, no two environments shall be exactly alike, which makes the trying out, validation and a success rollout of such technologies a lot more hard than in maximum other industries.

Practically, to mention that AI and Machine Learning may also be developed to resolve all problems associated with our bodily surroundings is to principally say that we have got a whole understanding of all aspects of the interplay of physical or material process in the world. After all, it’s only via our working out of ‘the nature of things’ that protocols and processes are designed for the rational features of cognitive systems to happen. And, even if AI and Machine Learning are educating us many things about methods to perceive the environment, we’re still some distance from having the ability to predict essential outcomes in fields like agriculture purely throughout the cognitive talent of machines.


Backed by way of the undertaking capital community, which is now funneling billions of bucks into the sphere, most agricultural era startups today are driven to complete building as temporarily as conceivable after which inspired to flood the marketplace as temporarily as possible with their merchandise.

This typically leads to a failure of a product, which ends up in skepticism from the market and delivers a blow to the integrity of Machine Learning technology. In most cases, the problem isn’t that the generation does not paintings, the problem is that trade has not taken the time to respect that agriculture is likely one of the most uncontained environments to manage. For era to in reality make an have an effect on within the field, more effort, skills, and funding is had to check these applied sciences in farmers’ fields.

There is huge potential for synthetic intelligence and system learning to revolutionize agriculture by way of integrating those applied sciences into important markets on an international scale. Only then can it make a distinction to the grower, where it in reality counts.

Satellites and SMS help Pakistan’s farmers with smart irrigation

Using knowledge from Nasa, Pakistan’s water analysis agency is sending rain forecasts to 10,000 farmers, serving to them to irrigate more successfully and building up their crop yields. It remains to be beyond farmer Mohammad Ashraf’s comprehension that individuals in Islamabad can are expecting that it is going to rain within the next two days in his village. He may be astonished that, in response to this prediction, they are able to tell him how much he must water his rice and sugarcane plantations.

Currently, we are totally dependent on whatever the sellers of agri-products tell us about using pesticides and seeds. We just accept whatever they say,” he says. “If it comes from the government agency, it would be authentic

“I marvel at this science of being able to predict something that is unknown and in God’s hands,” says the 36-year-old farmer, Every Friday, he reads the simple Urdu messages despatched to his telephone, pronouncing things like: “Dear farmer friend, this is to inform you that between 21 and 28 July 2017 in your area (Bahawalnagar) the crops used this much water (cotton 1.6 inch, sugarcane 1.7 inch). Next week, rain is predicted in some parts of your region. Therefore please water your crops accordingly.”.

The textual content messages (or SMS) are sent via the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), a central authority company that carries out water research. Ashraf can be much more flabbergasted if he knew the scientists get this information from space

“Using satellites and models that take the pulse of the earth, we can identify the amount of water a given crop requires at a specific location and a specific time,” says Faisal Hossain, head of the Sustainability, Satellites, Water, and Environment (SASWE) research group on the University of Washington which developed the programme for, “estimating crop water requirement in a cost effective and sustainable manner for the whole country”.

Dear farmer friend, this is to inform you that between 21 and 28 July 2017 in your area (Bahawalnagar) the crops used this much water (cotton 1.6 inch, sugarcane 1.7 inch). Next week, rain is predicted in some parts of your region. Therefore please water your crops accordingly.

Ashraf, who lives in Hayatpur in Punjab’s Sargodha district, now takes these messages critically. Five years ago, he met water mavens from the PCRWR who were doing a box survey to explore how to enhance groundwater conservation and crop yield. During their surveys, the professionals found that farmers were over-watering their vegetation. They put in a water meter on Ashraf’s 12-acre farm and defined that if the arrow became in opposition to the golf green at the dial, it meant that his land had sufficient water. When the arrow became towards the crimson mark, it was time to water.

Using satellites and models that take the pulse of the earth, we can identify the amount of water a given crop requires at a specific location and a specific time

Faisal Hossain

“Like every farmer in the village, I did not believe them. We have been farming for generations and know what works and what doesn’t,” Ashraf informed But the following yr, he determined to only water his field when the marker pointed towards the pink. That season he produced extra, spent less on diesel to run the tubewell, and made more profit than somebody within the village. “The others watered their sugarcane fields three times more than I did and not only did my plants grow taller, I had less disease in my crop than the rest.”

Ashraf says that an acre of his land yielded 1,000 maunds (1 maund = 37 kilogrammes) of sugarcane. Each maund offered for PKR 180 (USD 1.70). “I sold my crop for PKR 180,000 (USD 1,700) while most villagers could only sell between PKR 80,000 and 100,000 (USD 755-944). Now a convert, he says he plans heed to every word from PCRWR. “I’d say that 99% of the time they are right on the mark about rain,” he says.

    Since remaining year, the PCRWR has sent weekly information to farmers like Ashraf via textual content messages, telling them how a lot water their vegetation want. They also ship them climate forecasts.

    “We started with 700 farmers in April 2016, all across Pakistan, and since January this year the number of farmers receiving the messages has increased to 10,000,” says Ahmed Zeeshan Bhatti, deputy director of PCRWR. The company has submitted a proposal to a couple organisations to beef up it in improving the recommendation and expanding the carrier to 100,000 farmers.

    I think the information they send is quite useful for us as by conserving water, our profit margins will be greater

    37-year old farmer Mohammad Tariq from Faisalabad

    “We carried out a survey to gauge the response of the farmers to our advice and the feedback was encouraging,” he says. Between 25 and 30 farmers would name again immediately for additional knowledge. “Our initial telephone survey revealed that farmers are saving almost 40% of water by rationing irrigation,” he says, adding that the carrier is saving round 250 million cubic metres of irrigation water according to 12 months. In the following phase of the programme, the PCRWR desires to train the farmers, as well as the ones operating in the agriculture division, to use research and the meteorological recommendation properly.

    “I think the information they send is quite useful for us as by conserving water, our profit margins will be greater,” says 37-year old farmer Mohammad Tariq from Faisalabad. He, alternatively, wishes for more sorts of information akin to when to sow, when to spray with insecticides, how time and again and what seed is just right for which crop.

    “Currently, we are totally dependent on whatever the sellers of agri-products tell us about using pesticides and seeds. We just accept whatever they say,” he says. “If it comes from the government agency, it would be authentic.”

    “When the British designed the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) between 1847 to 1947, it was to turn 67% of the basin area into farmland,” said Azeem Shah, regional researcher at Lahore founded International Water Management Institute.

    Even after the British left in 1947, the federal government irrigation engineers were adding new dams, barrages, link and department canals to the previous gadget. Today IBIS has three large dams, 80 5 small dams, nineteen barrages, twelve inter-river link canals, forty-five canal instructions and nil.7 million tube wells. Still, say experts, canal irrigation water efficiency may also be greater from the current 33% up to 90% (within the evolved international locations) by repairing leakages in the system, good metering and growing efficient solutions for decreasing the call for for water and on the similar time expanding agricultural productivity.

    Further, as of late, stated Shah, the cropping intensity has increased through 150% compared to 1947 with farmers not wanting to depart any fallow land. They also cultivate two or 3 vegetation. “Over the last 70 years, the quantity of the water has remained the same but agriculture is competing with other sectors, such as industry, as well as the growing population,” says Shah. Today, says Shah, kind of 50% of irrigation wishes are met via IBIS canals and 50% is extracted from the ground.

    The SMS programme is supported technically and financially by way of the University of Washington’s Global Affairs Department, NASA’s applied sciences programme, the Ivanhoe Foundation and the Pakistan executive. When it began, the PCRWR was providing week-old knowledge, but is now in a position to forecast for the present and the long run. Hossain issues out, however, that even supposing long-term forecasts weren’t presented, temporary weather data would still have value. “Soil moisture has memory and inertia, so knowing how much it has rained and stayed in the soil the previous week is necessary to plan the coming week’s irrigation,” he defined.

    The PCRWR is able to get entry to global climate model forecasts with the assistance of the University of Washington, the use of a Chinese type and collaborating with the Pakistan Meteorological Department. “It is thus able to provide quite accurate information,” says Bhatti.

    With Pakistan among many nations liable to local weather change and excessive weather prerequisites, using clinical the way to help farmers irrigate their land extra efficiently is all the more important. Will this advice help farmers adapt to or fend off excessive climate phenomena in the years to come?

    “That’s the idea,” says Bhatti, including that the advice must assist farmers tackle local weather aberrations like heatwaves, and increased frequency of heavy and intense rainfall.

    Hossain is a extra wary: “The skill of general circulation model projections – say into 2040 – is poor and of little empowering value to farmers. We are more focused on providing tactical information, rather than long-term strategic information for adaptation.”

    Nor is this the only cellphone-based initiative going down in Pakistan. In the province of Punjab, the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) at the side of the Agriculture Department of Punjab, is partnering with Telenor, a cellular company offering financial services and products to farmers who do not have financial institution accounts. “Not only are we providing interest free loans to smallholder farmers we are providing them advisories on how to improve their yield by using modern agriculture practices and linking them to agriculture experts, research institutions, agriculture extension workers and input providers,” said Uzair Shahid, senior programme manager on the PITB.

    Step via small step, the farmers of Pakistan would possibly end up seeing telephone generation as an very important a part of a extra productive long term.

    New tech for clean agriculture offers chemical-free food

    After shedding her shut family to most cancers, agricultural engineer Bilge Akgün developed a brand new generation which grows fruit and veggies that don’t carry any chemical stays nor purpose any air pollution. Engineer and entrepreneur Akgün has founded an organization named Hextech Green and recently undertakes experiments at Istanbul Technical University’s ARI Teknokent.

    With her motto “Clean Agriculture,” Akgün mentioned the polluted food that has discovered its method to our tables is the reason for many cancer instances. “Seeing the pain that my beloved ones suffered because of cancer is a very hard thing. As an agricultural engineer, I made developing a technology that creates no pollution as my life’s purpose,” Akgün added.

    The Smart Agriculture Machine that Akgün has advanced offers solutions for cultivation with minimum water and fertilizer. With the machines, vegetables and fruit are grown with out using any pesticides or chemical fertilizer. The machine saves 98 p.c water and seeds are grown in 10 days. If the machine spreads, farmers will be capable to grow their meals with out being occupied with herbal failures or drought.

    “Seeing the pain that my beloved ones suffered because of cancer is a very hard thing. As an agricultural engineer, I made developing a technology that creates no pollution as my life’s purpose,”


    Akgün has also developed a household sort Smart Agriculture Machine which can be used by families living in cities.

    Currently we’re best promoting these machines to professionals however the research and development process for a family prototype continues. The work in this smaller gadget is planned to be completed by way of the second half of 2019 and we plan to continue with mass production as soon as conceivable,” Akgün added

    The biggest breakthrough in agriculture to help feed the planet may come from outer space

    A four-year-old start-up referred to as Indigo Ag is the No. 1 company on the 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 list.Indigo Ag is out to feed the arena and help farmers make a just right residing with out harming the planet. And one secret to its contemporary enlargement is hidden within the stars. Using satellite imaging and geospatial intelligence, it’s created a residing map of the sector’s meals provide.

    The quest to increase meals manufacturing stays important as the worldwide population grows from around 7.five billion today to a projected nine.8 billion through 2050, in step with information from the United Nations. Intensification of food production within the remaining decade has contributed to deforestation, declines in soil well being and freshwater resources, plus an building up in greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers and different food companies at the moment are struggling to rein of their unfavorable environmental affects.

    With 920 staff, Indigo Ag is best identified for making non-GMO seed therapies that lend a hand farmers maximize their yield on row plants, including soybeans, rice, wheat, corn and cotton. The remedies include naturally occurring microbes, like plant-friendly micro organism and fungi. Farmers follow them to their seeds as a sprig or powder coating ahead of planting.

    Here are the top 5 corporations on CNBC’s 2019 Disruptor 50 listing

    Eventually, the start-up plans to increase microbes to assist the expansion of other plants, together with espresso and top value nuts, vegetables and fruit. But for the time being, the company is excited by grains.

    Indigo Ag’s more moderen seed coatings goal for greater than yield enhancements — they encourage desirable characteristics in vegetation, like soybeans that yield extra oil, or grains which can be more palatable to sure farm animals, for example. They additionally scale back farmers’ wishes for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, says Indigo Ag CEO David Perry.

    Traditional chemical “inputs,” as they’re referred to as within the business, could cause water air pollution, harm flora and fauna, have harmful side effects on soil and hurt the health of people that work with or ingest them.

    In one well-known case, a crew of scientists led by means of Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium discovered a New Jersey-size “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, brought about in large part through the runoff of fertilizers and different waste from farms around the Mississippi River.

    According to Ben Riensche, a sixth-generation farmer in Iowa who grows corn and soybeans on 18,000 acres, Indigo Ag’s seed coatings support crop yields, typically through greater than 10%. He has been operating with the company for 3 years as a buyer and a analysis spouse. Indigo Ag checks and runs keep an eye on teams in four of his fields after they’re developing new seed remedies.
    Riensche says Indigo Ag’s way is appealing to farmers who want lend a hand growing thru tough conditions like drought or when a illness or pest infestation is threatening to encroach. But farmers also wish to improve their final analysis.
    “Let’s face it, crops face stress every year. No two years are alike. Hot, cold, wet, dry, early or late — I’ll tell you what has to be the fertilizer strategy. But if you can help my plants overcome stress in the field, and help me produce the same yield with less inputs, or produce higher-value crops using something from the biome? It’s better for my business and better from an environmental standpoint.”

    In 2017 Indigo Ag had notched a couple of hundred shoppers. By 2018 that quantity had ballooned to 5,000 food producers growing food on 1 million acres. The company expects to look 25,000 growers using its era to produce meals on 4 million acres by the tip of this 12 months.

    The company is heading in the right direction to surpass annual revenue of $1 billion in 2019, Perry says, partially owing to its global enlargement. It now operates out of doors the U.S., in Argentina, Brazil and Australia, along side a joint venture with Mahyco Grow in India.
    Agricultural Revolution
    Indigo Ag’s chief of operations for North America, Rachel Raymond, says it’s been exhausting for the agriculture industry to attract a subsequent generation of farmers, including in the U.S.

    That’s as a result of maximum farmers listed here are understanding how to cope with increasingly more unpredictable and excessive climate. At the same time, they have been hit by way of new tariffs and uncertainty round business negotiations between the U.S. and China, prior to now a big purchaser of soybeans and different row crops.

    The USDA expects net farm income in 2019 — a measure of farms’ profitability — to clock in 49% beneath its easiest degree of $136.1 billion in 2013 and underneath farms’ historical reasonable of $90 billion from 2000 to 2017.

    “In the same way that Google maps can tell you anytime a new Starbucks appears on the corner, we want to have that same level of information about our food supply. As an example, we now know every field that corn and soy is growing on in North or South America. We can estimate the yields on those and update that on a daily basis. ”


    Perry and Raymond say that by means of bringing better forecasting, transparency and products to the market, they’re out to make farming much less of a commodity trade and extra reliably winning.

    Since farmers need to grow earnings in addition to plants, Perry has driven Indigo Ag to enlarge its offerings past microbiology into instrument and services and products for farmers.

    Geoffrey von Maltzahn, co-founder of Indigo Ag, with corporate CEO David Perry: on a quest to lend a hand feed the world
    Source: Indigo Agriculture
    Indigo Ag rolled out a farmer’s answer to eBay or Amazon — the Indigo Marketplace — with make a choice consumers in June and a public release in September closing yr.

    The platform connects growers with patrons who want the elements they acquire to meet exacting specifications.

    For instance, to fulfill local environmental requirements or hit company sustainability targets, some companies will need to buy grains that were grown using much less water or producing lower quantities of greenhouse gas emissions than average.

    For the convenience of getting just what they want, and not using a phone calls or travel required, buyers are keen to say how a lot they’ll pay forward of a harvest. That’s a just right thing for farmers seeking to wait for prices or call for.

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    Perry says the Indigo Marketplace has already noticed $30 billion value of bids. One primary purchaser on it’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, the maintaining company at the back of beers together with Budweiser, Stella Artois and Hapi (from China’s Harbin Brewery).

    After the marketplace received traction, Indigo Ag started listening to extra from farmers about their different needs — like transporting their grains to shoppers or storing their grains safely and quickly when floods have been threatening to spoil their vegetation.

    In the similar method that Google maps can let you know anytime a new Starbucks seems at the corner, we want to have that very same level of details about our food provide.
    David Perry
    So Indigo Ag rolled out every other provider, Indigo Transport, which links carriers to growers and other bulk commodity shippers across the U.S.

    Indigo Ag has additionally been collecting genomic information on plant microbes, which it uses to are expecting whether or not a certain bacteria or fungi will lend a hand a plant live to tell the tale and thrive in shifting environmental conditions.
    In December 2018, Indigo Ag acquired Tellus Labs, an organization that parses difficult pictures from satellites to determine what’s rising, the place on Earth and in what conditions, every day.

    Incorporating this generation allows Indigo Ag and its shoppers to observe the sector’s meals provide and figure out the place to focal point their efforts subsequent.

    As Perry explained: “In the same way that Google maps can tell you anytime a new Starbucks appears on the corner, we want to have that same level of information about our food supply. As an example, we now know every field that corn and soy is growing on in North or South America. We can estimate the yields on those and update that on a daily basis. ”

    Farmers have a look at this information and make selections about what to plant, when to reap and when to take certain protecting measures, he added.

    The corporate has additionally offered new seed therapies for smaller grains, together with oats, barley and rye, says Raymond.

    She’s taking a look forward to the day that whisky and beer made together with her consumers’ vegetation show up at her favourite watering holes.

    Indigo Ag at once demanding situations the trade interests of one of the greatest companies in the agricultural sector — the place M&A and mission investing have speeded up in recent years — including Nutrien, Mosaic, BASF, Sygenta (now a part of Chinese large ChemChina), Corteva (DowDuPont’s agricultural sciences department) and Bayer (which obtained Monsanto).

    Bayer has misplaced nearly 50% of its value because the Monsanto merger and a series of billion-dollar court docket settlements related to its Roundup weedkiller.

    The festival isn’t just over chemical inputs and fertilizer however the future of agricultural science. Most of the most important ag gamers are development or buying digital agricultural platforms, similar to fertilizer corporate Nutrien’s $63 million acquisition of Agrible, DuPont’s $300 million acquisition of Granular and Monsanto’s $1 billion acquisition of The Climate Corporation in 2013. Monsanto also shaped the BioAg Alliance with Novozyme to make use of microbes to beef up crop harvests.

    Indigo Ag has raised approximately $650 million in mission investment and is valued at $3.five billion. Its backers include Ballie Gifford, the Investment Corp. of Dubai, the Alaska Permanent Fund and Flagship Pioneering.

    Azolla & Increased Paddy Yield by 30-40%

    Say no to chemical fertilizers now! Modern Agriculture has change into extra dependent on chemical fertilizers for increasing yield of crops. Constant use of chemical compounds has spoilt the land, soil and water. Depletion of soil fertility and high costs of chemical fertilizers has forced many paddy farmers, especially within the delta area, to show in opposition to azolla as an effective bio-fertilizer for their paddy crops.

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    We will let you know a few paddy farmer Mr. S. Ramuvel in Mayiladuthurai Taluka from Tamil Nadu who’s growing azolla in his box. Azolla is an efficient bio fertilizer for the safety of paddy crops.

    Benefits of Azolla:
    According to researchers from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, “Basal application on green azollamanure at the rate of 10-20 tonnes per hectare increases soil nitrogen by 45-60 kg and reduces 20-30 kg of nitrogenous fertilizer requirement of rice crop.”

    S. RamuvelFarmers, an organic farmer from Tamil Nadu stated, “Farmers should be made aware of the harmful effects of these chemicals in agriculture and switch over to non-chemical methods of growing crops.”

    Azollacan be used as a just right change for urea for paddy vegetation and can be used as a feed for livestock, geese, pigs and fish on account of its high protein content material.

    It is eco friendly, non pricey and is helping in safeguarding the soil well being and likewise the standard of crop products.

    It may also be transformed to compost via drying underneath coloration and then used like farmyard manure. It is also called a mosquito fern and water velvet.

    Azollais a naturally to be had free-floating aquatic fern most commonly present in wet soil, ditches, and pools. Though the fern is broadly cultivated in some Asian international locations akin to Japan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, in India it is but to realize extra prominence aside from in some states like Kerala and Orissa.

    The fern fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil to be made available to vegetation particularly wetland rice crops in the type of soluble nitrogen.

    A thick inexperienced mat of azollain the paddy box prevents weed enlargement and is helping paddy growth.

    It also prevents water evaporation and increases water use efficiency within the crops.

    Lower Cost:

    Mr. Ramuvel mentioned, “When i Used To Be cultivating paddy with chemical fertilizers I needed to spend about Rs.1,500 according to acre. At provide, with azolla, the cost of cultivation has come down by way of 25%. Azolla has greater my paddy yield by 30-40%.”

    Farmers can also create their very own nursery for rising this fern, said Mr. Ramuvel. The box should be ploughed, levelled, irrigated, and made to stand within the type of small ponds. Only 15-20 cm of standing water is permitted within the fields. Green azolla at the fee of 20 kg in keeping with hectare, blended with contemporary cow dung must be released into the pond.

    Dense Green Mat:

    The fern multiplies unexpectedly in about 10-15 days and bureaucracy a dense growth on the surface of the water. It is then harvested the usage of bamboo baskets and launched into the principle field some of the transplanted paddy plants for further multiplication.

    Mr. Ramuvel may be promoting the golf green azolla on the price of Rs. 5 per kg to other farmers who do not need a nursery. During summer time azolla is harvested at an interval of 15-20 days and right through monsoon, as soon as a month.

    Data turns into money crop for large agriculture

    “The future is simply data analytics and tech,” therefore for giant agriculture knowledge turns into cash crop consistent with Riensche. He explained how it is via explaining the info of his on a regular basis lifestyles.”

    For six generations, Ben Riensche’s family has tended corn and soybeans outside Jesup, a the city of two,500 on the windswept plains of jap Iowa. But today he’s harvesting a treasured new crop from his 12,000 acres: knowledge.

    Riensche, who nonetheless has his grandfather’s handwritten notebooks containing the entirety from the bushels of corn he brought in to the number of eggs the chickens laid.

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    Information accumulated by way of farmers, yields, fertilizer use, crop rotation, rainfall, and dozens of different knowledge points. The companies feed it into software that predicts mixtures of seeds, fertilizers, and sprays to maximise yields. That can boost gross sales of their products whilst additionally padding the bottom line from subscription fees farmers pay for tips on what to sow and when to spray.

    The virtual transformation of farming isn’t new. In the 1980s, soil data was once recorded on six-inch floppy disks to help calculate fertilizer wishes, and for the reason that advent of the web, firms have created ever-larger databases to improve suggestions.

    Today, the fashion is accelerating as growers get feeds without delay to tablet computer systems in their tractors and faucet applied sciences similar to crop-spraying drones to maximise yield on every square foot.

    By the mid 20’s, the virtual agriculture marketplace is predicted to be worth billions of dollars a yr. But as the companies bring together their databases, subscription charges $1 and up in line with acre don’t but quilt the cost of operating the techniques.
    Riensche expects that by the time his kids take over the farm, the knowledge revolution may have remodeled the trade. With shoppers demanding transparency in the meals chain, data on how a crop was grown and its environmental affect might be greatly valuable.

    And if millers or brewers want corn or barley that’s a little bit extra sun-kissed or has a higher starch content, they might order it from a farmer firstly of the season and track its development as it grows. “I’ve got buyers for my crop if I can provide them with this information,” Riensche says. With the proper generation, “I can provide the whole story of how that crop was raised.”

    Tech transformation: how agriculture is being redefined through digital innovation and startups

    At a recent YES Bank panel and digital startup competition, it was evident that India’s digital boom was lending the Indian startup ecosystem a distinctly agri-flavour.

    The convergence of mobile networks, broadband internet, cloud platforms, IoT, AI and open data is helping transform one of the world’s oldest professions. This is of great significance as agriculture and related sectors like dairy production form the backbone of the Indian workforce. Today, tradition is merging with technology as the IT services sector is helping open up new opportunities for both seasoned and emerging entrepreneurs.

    New fronts are opening up across the sector from organic farming and hydroponics to drones and agri apps. Startups are also playing a key role in transforming agriculture, which accounts for half of India’s workforce, but only about 13 percent of its GDP.

    Entrepreneurship trends
    An interesting trend to watch for is the rise of the number of agri-entrepreneurs, many of whom have no background in agriculture. There is more interest now in this sector compared to even five or ten years ago. Another indicator is the number of agri-tech competitions, awards and investors that are emerging. India’s demographic dividend is also attracting more youth segments to the agricultural sector, with cross-fertilisation across states, economic sectors, and scientific fields.

    The challenges seem formidable, but need to be acknowledged and tackled. Thousands of farmers commit suicide each year due to debt problems, as documented by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This is a sad reality in states such as Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and others.

    Many issues being tackled by startups relate to productivity and distribution, according to Sahil Kini, Vice President, Aspada Investment. There are large yield gaps in Indian farming as compared to its global counterparts, due to inadequacies in domains ranging from farm inputs and equipment to farming practices and retail connects. Multiple intermediaries, poor refrigeration during transportation, small farm sizes, and lack of fairness in financial stakeholders are other challenges.

    Agri-tech startups
    Today, the agri-tech sector is witnessing a number of startups in India disrupting everything from organic farming and equipment rentals to connected supply chains and cloud-based analytics. The startups in this report showcase the diversity in the sector, followed by an analysis of the broader ecosystem. Some cover pricing of produce, others include equipment marketplaces; still others cover digital workflow and smart supply chains.

    Farms2Fork offers farmers water monitoring solutions that ensure better productivity by reducing water wastage. The solution includes IoT wireless soil sensors, AI support, and real-time analytics. While earlier agri-tech solutions were based on batch processing of data, Farms2Fork operates on real-time data.

    Agribolo, founded in 2015, is a farming services platform spanning activities such as information dissemination, quality input procurement, market linkages, irrigation facilities and farming equipment. The franchise network, launched in Rajasthan, uses the aggregator model to connect farmers to experts, development institutions, financial services, and training institutes.

    AgroWave, founded by an IIT Delhi alumna in 2017, aims to optimise agriculture supply chain using research, analytics, and technology. Demand and supply analytics connect farmers in Panipat, Sonipat, Harpur, and Rajasthan to caterers, retail shops, restaurants, and canteens.

    Truce, founded by an IIT Bombay alumnus, is a B2B web and mobile platform that directly connects farmers and suppliers to wholesalers and retailers. The app is available in Hindi, English, Marathi and Gujarati, and enables tracking quotes and orders.

    Farm Again has converted 2,500 acres of land into organic farms, along with tech tools to trace the product’s origin, when sold in outlets such as Reliance Retail, Big Bazaar, and More. IoT devices are used to monitor and record moisture content and soil conditions, with pipes for water and fertiliser inputs.

    Crofarm, a Delhi-headquarted agri-supply chain startup founded in 2016, buys fresh produce directly from farmers and supplies them to online and offline retailers. It supplies nearly 8-10 tonnes of fruits and vegetables from its two distribution centres in Delhi NCR, and connects 100 retailers to more than 5,000 farmers.

    Aibono improves farm yields by using AI on a cluster of parameters like weather and soil condition. The testing and measurement services indicate parameters such as crop stress, along with recommendations on the right fertiliser mix to be used based on the soil condition.

    Gold Farm, founded in 2012, helps farmers book farm equipment such as solar-powered pumps in districts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Beneficiaries have included over 25,000 farmers on ground, who tap the services of 250 booking agents and over 500 tractor owners connected via a mobile app. The equipment is also tracked with IoT devices, resulting in rich data sets for analysis and forecasting.

    Earthy Tales, founded in NCR in 2016, works with farmers across 11 states to provide chemical-free fruits, vegetables, groceries, and dairy products. These include snacks, jams, preserves, and pickles, provided direct to consumers. Other services include mentoring for farmers and farm cooperatives.

    ONganic Foods works with small farmers to boost their organic produce. Based on contract farming, it identifies higher-priced grains and spices and gives quality inputs to farmers to increase their yield. It connects farmers to various government schemes as well as e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Spencer’s Retail.

    Oxen Farm Solutions offers agricultural equipment on rent using a ‘Farming as a Service’ (FaaS) model. The platform connects farmers, farm equipment manufacturers, and government schemes. Access to such machinery can boost farm productivity in an affordable manner. The company operates in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha, and connects to corporates such as PepsiCo and Yes Bank.

    Farmizen is a mobile-based platform that lets users grow vegetables and fruits on mini-farms, and monitor the process of growing food on a real-time basis. Located in the outskirts of Bengaluru, users get pictures and live videos of their farm plots. The startup also provides recommendations based on real-time inputs from the field as well as pre-defined schedules for over 50 different types of crops.

    Harvesting, founded by in 2016, has offices in California and Bengaluru, and offers smart farming solutions based on analytics and AI. It also uses farmer profiles to build creditworthiness profiles for financial organisations. The idea is to provide both increased farm productivity and better financial services.

    SatSure uses IoT and Big Data to provide financial security to farmers, via its 15-year database of satellite images. It makes recommendations clustering techniques for farmers to get an estimate of the total agriculture production, and provides this data to agri-insurance companies as well.

    Organic Thelawala enables a transparent pricing mechanism so that the consumer knows the price of the produce as well as how much of the selling price actually goes to the farmer. It is s assisting 13,000 farmers to switch to organic farming, thereby, creating a positive impact on bio-diversity, soil contamination, water, and air pollution. Further, by providing free thelas (pushcart), the team promotes micro-entrepreneurship among pushcart vendors and farmers.

    Earth Food, based in Pune, provides chemical-free produce at market price. It has collaborated with Reliance Fresh and Nature Fresh.  It uses a healthy mix of traditional methods and innovation to keep pollution and wastage to a minimum, thereby benefitting both consumers and the environment.

    Jayalaxmi Agrotech, founded by alumni of IIMB and VEC helps farmers minimise crop loss and improve productivity via its many crop- specific mobile applications in local languages that provide timely information on agriculture and animal husbandry.

    Gramophone, based in Indore, is a platform that combines both advisory and sale of inputs under a single roof. Farmers can access mentors for help with everything from crop selection to land productivity and more.

    Triton Foodworks, based in Delhi, is a hydroponics startup growing fruits and vegetables. It has reportedly set up more than 2 lakh sq ft of hydroponic farms across three locations in India, and produces more than 700 tons of fruits and vegetables each year.

    vDrone, based in Bengaluru, uses drones and thermal imaging to increase yield. It analyses areas of the farm that need attention, and helps the farmer cater to these needs. Parameters include soil, cropping pattern, and use of fertilisers.

    Ninjacart, based in Bengaluru, enables retailers and merchants to source fruits and vegetables directly from farmers without resorting to middlemen. It connects 2,500 farmers and handles 14,000 tons of fruits and vegetables, accounting for revenue of around Rs 4 crore every month.

    BigHaat, based in Bengaluru, is an online agro e-store for farmers that lets them buy seeds, crop protection nutrients and solutions, and agro instruments. Last-mile connectivity is enabled via logistics partners like India Post and Ship Rocket. The footprint spans 50,000 farmers across 20 states.

    Ravgo is an agri-equipment rental marketplace based on the model of the sharing economy. It is solving the farm mechanisation problem among India farmers who cannot afford to buy the farm machinery. The target market is currently small farmers based in Punjab.

    Kisanmade, launched in Moradabad, UP is an e-commerce platform set up in Moradabad to empower farmers by eliminating the intermediary between the farmer and the consumer. It also aims to increase the farmer’s income and decrease the kitchen’s expense by 10-15 percent.

    FlyBird Innovations, founded in Bengaluru, uses sensors in the soil to detect moisture content and control irrigation in farms across South India. The information is used to optimise irrigation practices, improve crop yield, and save water, time, and labour. It claims 25-30 percent savings of water and improvement of crop yield by 10-15 percent.

    Kamal Kisan reduces labour costs with innovative agri-equipment, with reported savings of up to 50 percent. Tools include sugarcane planters, versatile mulch layers, bed makers, vegetable handy planters, and power weeders.

    farMart connects farmers who own machinery with those who need it but don’t have access to it. Large farmers put underutilised agri-machinery up for rent on the farMart platform, and are connected to farmers who need such machinery; they can then book it via app or call centre. The database includes 300 villages and 1,500 farmers.

    AgroStar, a Pune-based m-commerce startup, sells agricultural inputs directly to farmers. The platform can be accessed online or giving the company’s 1800 number a missed call. Products are sourced from national and multinational brands, and include seeds and nutrients.

    CropIn leverages GIS and data science to deliver a range of services apps to farmers and other players in the agri chain. It feeds real-time data and advice on practices related to a range of crops.

    Other notable agri startups are NubeSol (soil fertility maps) and Sree Sai Aerotech Innovations (drones for monitoring crop health). Some industry players are also leveraging the platform model – such as Trringo, launched in 2016 by India’s largest tractor maker company, Mahindra and Mahindra. The franchisee network enables farmers to access tractors at an affordable price. Over 100,000 farmers have signed up, from West and South India.

    There are also international players in the Indian agri market, such as PEAT. The German startup is working with 30,000 farmers across India to help mitigate crop damage. It identifies patterns of plant diseases, pests, or nutrient deficiencies via crop images.

    The broader agri startup ecosystem includes a number of think tanks, research labs, incubators and accelerators. For example, ONganic is supported by the Technology Development Board, Government of India and Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprise and incubated at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.

    Goa has an agri-focused incubator called Centre for Innovation and Business Acceleration (CIBA). TiE Bangalore and NUMA have held startup showcases in collaboration with Villgro, featuring agri-entrepreneurs.

    At the recent YES Bank Transformation Series (YBTS) speakers and panelists included Ramanathan Ramanan, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog; Raju Kapoor, Head, Corporate Affairs, Dow AgroSciences India; Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner, Bharat Innovations; Nitin Puri, Senior President, Food and Agribusiness Strategic Advisory and Research, YES Bank; and Amardeep Sibia, CEO, SatSure.

    At the 2017 edition of YBTS three agri-tech winners were awarded out of 15 finalists. Winners included teams from IIM Shillong (Rs 5 lakh for a smart soil sensor proposal), IIM Bangalore (Rs 3 lakh for a solar-powered drip technology proposal), and ISB Hyderabad (Rs 2 lakh for IoT-based SIM-enabled farm data sensors).

    The Government of India is also catalysing agri- entrepreneurship with programmes like the Agri-Udaan Accelerator and the Agri Grand Challenge. Government-backed funding agencies like the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) is incentivising banks to lend at highly affordable rates to startups.

    Incubators in this space include Villgro, a-IDEA, ABI-ICRISAT, Startup Oasis, IIMC Innovation Park, IIT Kanpur SIIC, KIIT TBI, and CIIE, IIMA. They provide mentorship and connects to farmer cooperatives, NGOs, channel partners, and individual farmers in some cases.

    Indigram Labs Foundation (ILF), supported by Department of Science and Technology via the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, Government of India, is a technology-based incubator founded in 2015 to promote creativity and innovation in agriculture, renewable energy, and rural healthcare industry. Its host organisation is Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP).

    ISAP has set up more than 1,800 agri-based ventures through its Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (ACABC) programme and has around 50 agri-business experts in various verticals who help in mentoring incubates, according to Manisha Acharya, CEO, Indigram Labs Foundation.

    It has graduated 18 startups, such as New Leaf Dynamic Technologies(refrigeration system powered by farm waste), Intello Labs (AI-based deep-tech solution for crop inspection and agricultural products grading), Sainhun Ventures(honey by-products), Nutrelis Agro Foods (organic groceries, beverages), and Innosapiens Agro Technologies (phenomics device for pre-detection of pests).

    Indigram takes an equity of up to 5 percent in the startup. In the long run, agri incubators need support in areas like trained manpower, pilot testing costs, rural outreach, and patent advisory services, according to Acharya.

     International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) hosted an agri-business investors camp in Hyderabad on June 12. The camp addressed three themes: agri-technology, agri-engineering and food processing.

    IIM Ahmedabad’s technology business incubator, Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), has launched a food and agri-business accelerator in partnership with a-IDEA, the business incubator at Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM). Top teams are provided seed investment of up to Rs 30 lakhs each. CIIE also has a sustainability focused fund called Infuse Ventures.

    Recent reports have tracked the investment line-up for Agricx Lab (Ankur Capital, CIIE), Agrostar (IDG Ventures, Aavishkaar Venture Management), Agrowave (Daffodil Software), Airwood (StartupXseed Ventures), Arya Collateral (Aspada), Farm Taaza (Epsilon Venture Partners), Farmizen (Venture Highway), FarmLink (Pioneering Ventures, Syngenta), Gobasco (Matrix Partners India), KisanHub (Notion Capital, IQ Capital, Calibrate Management), KrishiHub (INVENT accelerator, Villgro Innovation Fund), NinjaCart (Trifecta Ventures), RML AgTech (IvyCap Ventures), Utkal Tubers (CapAleph Indian Millennium SME Fund, Zephyr Peacock India), and VillFarm (Unitus Seed Fund, Rianta Capital).

    Crofarm has received funding from angels such as Rajan Anandan (MD, Google India) and Jitendra Gupta (MD, PayU India). Gold Farm raised funds from Infuse Venture and the Mahindra Group. Truce was funded by 3one4capital, Beenext, FreeCharge founders, Snapdeal founders and Anupam Mittal, CEO, People Group. CropIn, raised funds from Ankur Capital; Agrostar received investments from Aavishkar. Other active agri-focused funds include Omnivore Partners and Rural Agri Ventures; Germany development agency GIZ has also roped in international partners for further cooperation.

    Among Indian states, Karnataka formalised an agri-startup fund in 2017 through K-BITS with a corpus of Rs 10 crore, with an additional Rs 8 crore planned for 21 agri-startups this year. A centre of excellence for agriculture is also planned, where startups will work with farmers.

    Other government initiatives, according to Sahil Kini of Aspada Investment include Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008; and Money Lending (Regulation) Act, 2008.

    Entrepreneur tips
    A number of mentor panels and pitch jurors have offered guidance for agri-entrepreneurs. These include, for example, the importance of customer immersion. Here are some of the tips they have shared.

    On-the-ground realities in emerging economies are shifting rapidly, and founders should have a finger on the pulse of effective trends and aspirations.
    Disciplines like design thinking offer useful and actionable frameworks.
    Metrics should be holistic and include activity, business, and social impacts. There should be one or two key success metrics for primary focus, and the rest should be supporting or complementary metrics. This helps founders monitor their progress and assists investors in assessing the long-term viability of the venture.
    Founders should build a well-rounded team, with a mix of engineering, design, and social science backgrounds. Sometimes founders get too carried away with the technology; having a holistic mix in the core team will help contextualise the offerings, use and impact.
    India’s social problems call for bold and ambitious innovators who can tackle challenges at scale. The social cost of failure is high for social enterprises (as compared to merely pivoting an app design); hence collaborative partnerships are important.
    Social entrepreneurs should learn how to work with partners who are not social enterprises. They should be clear about their offerings, values, and philosophy. Partnerships are an art and a science. Partners should be picked carefully, and the relationship should evolve over time.
    Founders will frequently need to pitch to funders, investors, partners, regulators, customers, and employees. The pitch should focus less on product features and more on problem resolution. Techniques like storytelling are effective here.
    Founders should enumerate the range of risks involved, eg. regulatory and lack of ecosystem trust. Secondary impacts should also be assessed, since some risks are more indirect than others.
    The road ahead
    This is a great time to integrate different domains of knowledge and skills in agri-innovation. In addition to fresh farm produce, there are lucrative opportunities in processed products such as pickles, papads, chutneys, and murabbas. This calls for effective post-harvest management infrastructure such as storage, preservation, cold chain and refrigerated transportation.

    New models such as the FaaS model can lead to more sustainable paths to profitability. The platform model can leverage data analytics to identify emerging business trends and opportunities and thus attract more venture capital, according to a report published by Bain and Company in partnership with Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Such models are also getting significant corporate backing, such as Trringo by Mahindra and Mahindra for tractor rentals and John Deere (with EM3 Agri Services) for harvester fleets.

    Smartphones powered by affordable mobile broadband networks are helping improve workflow of farms and dairies. This opens the door to new pay-per-use business models and innovation stacks, connecting the farm to the fridge and fork. Banks and financial organisations also need to step up to the challenge and offer more creative models of financing for farmers, entrepreneurs, incubators, and accelerators.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a target for farmers’ incomes to be doubled by 2022, India’s 75th year of Independence. Schemes like the government’s Startup Agri India scheme, the Digi Gaon (Digital Village) initiative, and Bharat Net project can all work together towards making this a reality. Initiatives like agri-hackathons can also bring together aspiring entrepreneurs from diverse sectors.

    However, there are certain challenges:
    Pricing decisions should be made more transparent and less politically driven (particularly before elections), with sufficient market validity and testing. This includes setting the price of onions and sugar, and promising ‘free’ electricity for farmers.
    Increased promotion and adoption of open data are other trends to watch for. An open data ecosystem can grow India’s GDP by $22 billion by 2020, according to report by YES Bank and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). India’s Open Government Data (OGD) platform can step up to this challenge.
    The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) is pushing for these initiatives to reach ordinary people and marginalised communities. Other sources of data include rural internet kiosks, community e-centres, and online agricultural systems.
    Agri-tech entrepreneurs can go beyond incremental change to truly effect exponential change, and transform the agricultural sector while also giving back to society. Successful agri-preneurs in India can also take their innovations global.
    The agricultural sector is now shedding its rustic persona to emerge as a trendy space to be in. Inclusive, sustainable, and scalable solutions are the way ahead.



    The System of Rice Intensification, known as SRI — le Système de Riziculture Intensive in French and la Sistema Intensivo de Cultivo Arrocero (SICA) in Spanish — is a climate-smart, agroecological methodology for increasing the productivity of rice and more recently other crops by changing the management of plants, soil, water and nutrients.

    SRI Principles

    SRI methodology is based on four main principles that interact with each other:

    • Early, quick and healthy plant establishment
    • Reduced plant density
    • Improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter
    • Reduced and controlled water application

    Based on these principles, farmers can adapt recommended SRI practices to respond to their agroecological and socioeconomic conditions. Adaptations are often undertaken to accommodate changing weather patterns, soil conditions, labor availability, water control, access to organic inputs, and the decision whether to practice fully organic agriculture or not. The most common SRI practices for irrigated rice production are summarized in the following section.

    In addition to irrigated rice, the SRI principles have been applied to rainfed rice and to other crops, such as wheatsugarcanetefffinger milletpulses, showing increased productivity over current conventional planting practices. When SRI principles are applied to other crops, we refer to it as the System of Crop Intensification or SCI (see SCI sectionof the website for details).

    Recommended SRI Management Practices for Irrigated Conditions

    • Rice Plants › seedlings are transplanted:
      • very young › at the 2 leaf-stage, usually between 8 and12 days old*
      • carefully and quickly › protecting the seedlings’ roots and minimizing the transplanting shock
      • singly › one plant per hill instead of 3-4 together to avoid root competition
      • widely spaced › to encourage greater root and canopy growth
      • in a square grid pattern › 25×25 cm or wider in good quality soil

    *Note: Adaptations for direct-seeding and mechanical transplanting have been undertaken in a number of countries.

    • Soil › The soil is enriched with organic matter to improve soil structure, nutrient and water holding capacity, and favor soil microbial development. Organic matter represents the base fertilization for the crop and is complemented if needed by fertilizer.
    • Water › Only a minimum of water is applied during the vegetative growth period. A 1-2 cm layer of water is introduced into the paddy, followed by letting the plot dry until cracks become visible, at which time another thin layer of water is introduced. During flowering a thin layer of water is maintained, followed by alternate wetting and drying in the grain filling period, before draining the paddy 2-3 weeks before harvest. This method is called ‘intermittent irrigation’ or ‘Alternative Wetting and Drying’ (AWD). Some farmers irrigated their fields every evening, other leave their fields drying out over 3-8 days, depending on soil and climate conditions.
    • Nutrients  As soils are improved through organic matter additions, many nutrients become available to the plant from the organic matter. Additionally the soil is also able to hold more nutrients in the rooting zone and release them when the plants need them. Depending on the yield level and on the farming system, some farmers use exclusive organic fertilization for their SRI plots. The majority of farmers complement the organic matter amendment with chemical fertilizers, most often urea, in order to achieve a balanced fertilization of the crop.
    • Weeds › While avoiding flooded conditions in the rice fields, weeds grow more vigorously, and need ideally be kept under control at an early stage. A rotary hoe – a simple, inexpensive, mechanical push-weeder – is most often used starting at 10 days after transplanting, repeated ideally every 7-10 days until the canopy is closing (up to 4 times). The weeder has multiple functions and benefits. i) It incorporates the weeds into the soil, where they decompose and their nutrients can be recycled, ii) it provides a light superficial tillage and aerates the soil, ii) it stimulates root growth by root pruning, iii) it makes nutrients newly available to the plant by mixing water with organic matter enriched top soil. A re-greening effect of the plants can be observed 1-2 days after weeding, and iv) it redistributes water across the plot, contributing to a continuous leveling of the plot and eliminating water patches in lower laying areas in the field that create anaerobic conditions for the plants. The use of the weeder contributes to homogeneous field conditions, creating a uniform crop stand and leading to increased yields. For more information see WASSAN Weeder Compendium, our YouTube playlist for weeders (manual and mechanized) and short weeder slide presentation for more on weeders.


    Drones in agriculture: a tool for early pest detection

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations projects that by 2050 humanity’s ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. Farmers will need to produce more with less, while preserving our environment for future generations. And society has a duty to help them achieve this. Although agriculture is perceived as a traditional economic sector, precision agriculture technologies have already boosted crop yields significantly in the last decades. What else can be done?

    Robust investments in the commercial drone sector have made the technology cheaper, lighter, safer and more sophisticated. Drones can fly on autopilot. The unique combination of the above-mentioned factors makes the utilization of drones by smallholder farmers affordable.

    Early pest detection is a major application of drones in agriculture. Depending on the crop, agricultural producers survey their land several times per week. For example, a potato producer is going in the field at least 3 to 4 times per week during the growing stage of the crop. No surprise here, as pests like the Colorado potato beetle, could spread extremely fast and destroy hundreds of hectares per day.

    The earlier you catch the problem, the cheaper to contain it. Once you identify a small spot, you can fix it right away, as opposed to having it spread. This leads to big time and labor savings.

    image © USDA

    Robust investments in the commercial drone sector have made the technology cheaper, lighter, safer and more sophisticated. Drones can fly on autopilot. The unique combination of the above-mentioned factors makes the utilization of drones by smallholder farmers affordable.

    Early pest detection is a major application of drones in agriculture. Depending on the crop, agricultural producers survey their land several times per week. For example, a potato producer is going in the field at least 3 to 4 times per week during the growing stage of the crop. No surprise here, as pests like the Colorado potato beetle, could spread extremely fast and destroy hundreds of hectares per day.

    The earlier you catch the problem, the cheaper to contain it. Once you identify a small spot, you can fix it right away, as opposed to having it spread. This leads to big time and labor savings.

    AgroHelper, a Bulgarian startup is working on developing a web-based solution that helps farmers process drone captured images and detect, in real time, zones with potential crop health issues. The platform is powered by a cloud infrastructure and does not require any specific hardware to be present on the farmer’s local machine (or a fast internet connection).

    Currently, most state-of-the-art software solutions, use a process called “stitching” to create an orthophoto map from hundreds of individual overlapping aerial photos. Each individual photo captured by the drone camera contains different terrain features like crop rows, tractor trails or buildings. As the photos overlap, each individual feature is captured by the drone camera multiple times from different angles and perspectives.

    image ©AgroHelper

    AgroHelper’s Health Map feature indicates zones with potential issues

    Stitching, as the name suggest, is a mathematical process that matches the photos to solve the puzzle and create one high-resolution map. This is the most precise solution available today. However, the process takes from 5 to 10 hours, requires heavy computing power (which translates in high cost) and fails fairly often.

    The AgroHelper team aims to solve this problem by offering a real-time tool and eliminate stitching from the process. The results are less precise than stitching in terms of resolution but allow farmers to pinpoint an area that requires attention in real time. As the process is optimized, the cost is contained, and AgroHelper provides farmers the opportunity to process 3 maps per month for free.