Wadhwani AI partners with startups in agritech space

The institute is working with Indian and global startups that are helping farmers with early detection of diseases and advisory to save crops, thus ensuring better income and yield

By   |  Published: 4th Jan 2021  12:05 amUpdated: 17th Jan 2021  8:41 pm
Wadhwani AI is currently working on pest control, and water, soil & nutrient management where AI can help cotton farmers save their crops and improve productivity.

Hyderabad: Wadhwani AI, an independent not-for-profit research institute focused on developing artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications, is strengthening ties with startups in the agritech space.

The institute is working with Indian and global startups that are helping farmers with early detection of diseases and advisory to save crops, thus ensuring better income and yield.

Wadhwani AI senior director-Programs Rajesh Jain told Telangana Today, “We realise that through private sector support, we can reach maximum farmers not only in India but across the world with our solution and technology to save their crop. We are actively engaged with agritech startups to make disruption happen in agriculture and faster.”

“One of the largest integrated pest management startups Plantix, based out of Germany, approached us when we got the Google AI Impact Challenge grant in 2019. The startup through its mobile crop advisory app covers 40 crops and 400 diseases and helps farmers to identify the disease real-time and give recommendations. We have entered into a memorandum of understanding with them to work together. The company wants our AI solution to be integrated with their app and we are in discussion,” he informed.

Similarly, CropIn, a full-stack agritech company that provides software as a service (SaaS) based solutions, and we have mutually approached each other as we have been looking at their outreach. Indian NGO, Indian Grameen Services (IGS) is also keen to partner with Wadhwani AI. Also, there are talks with the startup eKutir, which has developed a decentralised, risk-mitigated and transparent system to extend agriculture services to the farmers in India and farmers.

Cotton farmers

Wadhwani AI has partnered with Better Cotton Initiative (which reaches out to 19 per cent of world’s cotton farmers), IDH, Welspun Foundation, Deshpande Foundation, IGS and others to build and test its AI solution for early pest detection and is presently being used by over 18,000 farmers across Telangana (in 100 villages), Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Going forward, the solution would be used by the State governments of Telangana and Maharashtra to help the cotton farmers. Wadhwani AI has already signed a MoU with the Telangana government. “We have built our solution in such a way that it fits into the existing government framework, workflows and technology platform,” Jain added.

The institute is also exploring an interactive voice response (IVR) system to disseminate information and advisory to farmers on their phones in their local language across India. Wadhwani AI has also partnered with the International Cotton Advisory Council which is planning to take the tool to global cotton producing nations worldwide.

Scope of application

Going forward, he said, “We are also looking into other aspects related to cotton farming that include water management, soil and nutrient management where AI can help to improve the ability to save crops. We are exploring a multi-modal approach to come out with predictive models.”

The agriculture science community has also approached Wadhwani AI to look into aspects of food security as corn (maize) is attacked by Fall Armyworm globally in the last two years, leading to 40 per cent crop loss. “If we get the data we can quickly build and deploy the solution. We are looking to get one lakh Fall Armyworm infestation pictures to develop a solution. We are working with 2-3 organisations right now,” Jain informed.


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