Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a great boon to the agricultural sector which is heavily dependent on climatic conditions which are often unpredictable. Determining the right time to sow crops is often one of the biggest challenges for Indian farmers where drought and excess rainfall can be equally serious challenges. Microsoft in collaboration with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), developed an AI Sowing App that uses machine learning and business intelligence from the Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite. The App has been developed using historic climate data of the specific area analyse it to calculate the Moisture Adequacy Index (MAI) to determine the optimal sowing period, MAI is the standardized measure used for assessing the degree of adequacy of rainfall and soil moisture to meet the potential water requirement of crops. The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow. “The best part – the farmers don’t need to install any sensors in their fields or incur any capital expenditure. All they need is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages”. Microsoft has also partnered with India’s United Phosphorous Ltd. (UPL) to create the Pest Risk Prediction App that again leverages AI and machine learning to indicate in advance the risk of pest attack.
AI sensors can detect and target weeds while deciding which herbicides to apply within the right buffer — preventing overapplication of herbicides and herbicide resistance. The technology is being used at one of Nature Sweet’s farms in Arizona. Nature Sweet, a company that grows, harvests, packages tomato and sells in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, believes “artificial intelligence will eventually improve greenhouses tomato yields by 20%”. Instead of soil, they plant in coconut husks that helps the tomato plants resist disease and use 80% less water.