Artificial Intelligence for Rural India

India is an emerging superpower with conceptional growth in the economy, space technology, health, education, and military. But do you know India’s land-per-person ratio is decreasing day by day? It means that the population is increasing. An increase in population eventually leads to unemployment, poverty, and food insufficiency. Therefore, it is time to stand up and find a solution to enhance the common people’s lifestyles with modern-day solutions.

Is there a way out?

A major question is, how are we going to tackle the challenges? There is a proverb, “If there is a will, there is a way.” So, why not bring an intelligent mind aboard to think and solve problems according to the situation? Someone who can observe a lot of data relentlessly and service those who need it. Nature has not created something like this, but it did bring human beings into existence. And humans came up with Artificial Intelligence(AI). With the help of AI, we can find smart solutions to many complex problems.

What is the root cause?

We keep listing problems like poverty, unemployment, food insufficiency, medical issues. But we rarely dig deeper to find the root cause of such problems. If we see India’s economic graph, over 70% of the population depends on the Agriculture or Agri Products sector. But unemployment is rising within this sector with each passing day. We are facing drastic climate changes and natural disasters. Hence, the yield from farms is not satisfactory, leading to unemployment, poverty, and food insufficiency.

Role of Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

We have been talking about overcoming agriculture sector health for decades, implementing many solutions, but it doesn’t seem to be working. To understand the core of the problem, we need to dive deeper into the various aspects of agriculture:

Soil health — Soil itself contains specific nutrients, but we use fertilizers as per the crop. We rarely check the existing nutrients in the soil. Hence, soil monitoring is essential.

Pollination — The life cycle of a farm product starts from the bud, and after pollination, it gradually ends with it growing into a fruit/grain. The most important agents of pollination are insects like honeybees, butterflies, etc. But due to pollution, they are depleting in numbers, directly affecting the yield of production. Via satellite images or drone evaluations, AI can help track the insect population and enable farmers and governments to take necessary actions to maintain their numbers through honey bee farming.

Soil water consumption — Data on a crop’s water consumption capacity and soil moisture sensing devices can collectively help automate water provision to crops.

AI in increasing agricultural production

If a person goes without food for a prolonged period, he may suffer from malnutrition. But if he starts eating nutritious food again, his health will surely recover. The same formula applies to orange farming. In the process of orange agriculture, the orange tree doesn’t fertilize itself and grows fruit. It is up to us to make it to do so. The question is, how? In the mid-winter (December-January), orange farms are not watered or fertilized. Since the trees don’t receive water, they start to wither. The leaves dry up. As winter recedes, farmers start rejuvenating the trees. Just as the person described above, the orange trees start receiving water and nutrients and recover their health. We finally receive sweet oranges in October as it takes up to 10–12 months for harvest.

Due to the present climatic scenario, we experience rainfall and high temperatures in the supposedly cold season. Winter showers don’t let the orange farms dry up, which leads to a dip in production. Here, AI can help track the weather and soil moisture level, and by analyzing the data, suggest when to let the farm dry and when to fertilize it again.

AI can play a significant role on the farm by measuring soil health and performing pre-disease diagnosis, among other things. Currently, farmers are following traditional ways passed down through generations. They apply fertilizers and pesticides without tracking the need or cause. If AI keeps track of soil health, it can suggest necessary nutrients for farmers to feed into the soil. Drones or satellite image techniques will help trace disease through the monitoring of leaves.

AI for government schemes in the agricultural sector

Due to the sporadic nature of the Indian monsoon, many regions fall victim to severe drought. Agriculture officers submit reports and try to gain a government subsidy for farmers. But many adversely-affected areas miss out on these benefits due to human error or corruption. We can simplify the process using AI to track all the satellite images before and after the disaster. With this data, we can save the time consumed by report generation and close in on affected regions more efficiently.

How can we use AI?

In India, most farmers can hardly read or write. So, the primary concern would be how they could use Artificial Intelligence. Let us consider that learning to drive a car doesn’t require a degree in mechanical engineering, and anybody can learn to do it. Similarly, we implement AI through a simple medium such as a mobile phone. It is not too difficult to pick up on.

How are industries looking at this?

AI giants like Microsoft and IBM are working on solutions that farmers can use to know about the dos and don’ts of agriculture. Microsoft is using drone yield evaluation techniques for the pre-disease diagnosis of the crops. In South Africa, the government, in partnership with a private organization, tracks poverty-stricken regions using satellite image analysis and provides them with feasible resources. In this process, the needy get the required benefit. IBM uses AI to trace areas with food shortages and shares data with the social welfare committees who can help the people there. In India, many farmers are open to innovation, as evident from automated pumps for watering crops. Indian farmers have also shown interest in weather updates provided by the government and try to use the information for better yields.

Conclusion

The low yield of food crops is one of the major blockers of a developing economy like India. If the agricultural sector can leverage Artificial Intelligence, it can significantly tackle the problems of unemployment and poverty. Food production can also match the demand of the growing population. It’s all co-dependent.

Originally published on Coditas Blog

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