With an aim to highlight the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital applications in agriculture, FICCI in collaboration with PwC, German Agribusiness Alliance organized an International Summit on “Artificial Intelligence & Digital applications in Agriculture” in corporation with the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany and Niti Aayog on 19th and 20th May 2022. This summit was an opportunity for Government, development  partners, industries, and related stakeholders to come together to deliberate on the opportunities and explore collaborations to strengthen the future of agriculture through adoption of AI and digital technologies.

Technology for smart farming

A session on “Smart farming for better prices for farmers and better quality for consumers” focused on the role of AI, technology-digitization, and predictive analysis, and sharing global scenarios and case studies considering smart farming practices.  

Ravinder Grover from the CGIAR’s HarvestPlus program spoke about the need for digitizing nutrition-smart agriculture for a larger impact and how HarvestPlus is using digital pathways for a rapid scale up of nutrient smart crops.

He shared that HarvestPlus has developed 400 varieties of naturally nutritious crops in 40 countries and managed to reach 64 million people who are now growing and consuming biofortified crops. HarvestPlus in collaboration with several ag-tech partners is working on incorporating the use of AI and digital tools for rapid scale up of the biofortified crops across the value chain from prioritising research to shaping consumer demand and everything in between.

In Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Harvest Plus in collaboration with Cropin, is focusing on testing cost-effective traceability solutions. HarvestPlus has also partnered with PXD to send customized SMS and Push Calls to farmers to ensure behavioural change and provide advisory information in local languages (Urdu and Saraiki) in Pakistan. 

Grover also talked about HarvestPlus’ focus on use of analytical tools like the Biofortification priority index tool that was developed to identify the priority crops/ varieties as per the country needs and consumption pattern. One of the good examples of repurposing technology from other fields to agriculture was the XRF technology, which was originally used in mining but is now being made relevant for agriculture with the help of machine learning to quickly assesses with precision the concentration iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca) and other minerals in whole grain samples which was developed in collaboration with ICRISAT. He also expressed the need for democratisation of agricultural technology by designing solutions which are relevant for the smallholder agriculture.

The session also discussed that different technologies, interventions, solutions exist across the value chain ranging from production, processing to marketing and retail etc and promoting collaboration across different stakeholders through government support can play a significant role in reaching out to the farmers and consumers at large. 

Ms. Anna Roy, Senior Adviser, NITI Aayog speaking at the occasion, said that the benefits of applying AI in agriculture are immense. “AI in the areas of weather, soil nutrients, pest and disease management, fertilization, market prices, finance and traceability have shown a lot of potentials. Opportunity in agritech exists across the value chain from improving farmers’ access to markets, inputs, data, advisory, credit and insurance,” she added. She also emphasized that agriculture along with education and health is one of the sectors where government plays a critical role in the adoption of technology because of the nature of the sector, especially in the context of India.

Highlighting the use of AI and other digital technologies in a transparent way, Prof Dr Engel Friederike Arkenau, Commissioner for Digitization, Head of Directorate Digital Innovation, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany, emphasized on the use of AI and other digital technologies in a transparent way can significantly help to achieve the overall goal of sustainable agriculture worldwide. She shared that “sustainability is a result of a balanced interplay between economy, environment and social spheres. This needs collaboration, cooperation and co-creation as a very important element.”

TR Kesavan, Chairman, FICCI National Agriculture Committee & Group President, Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE) stressed that AI is expected to play a key role in the growth of Indian agriculture relieving the sector from stressful conditions and catalysing shift towards data-driven farming. Mr. Ashok Varma, Partner and Leader – Social Sector, PwC India emphasized the need to transform AI into agricultural intelligence and said, “AI-enabled models in agriculture and allied sectors are imperative. To transform AI to agriculture intelligence leading to widespread adoption of technology, a 3S strategy is required- Scale, Skill and Service.”

Leveraging scale, skill, and service

The report “Redefining Agriculture through Artificial Intelligence: Predicting The Unpredictable,” was also released at the summit. The report proposes a “3S” strategy by employing levers of scale, skill, and service to transform AI to agri-intelligence, leading to widespread adoption of the technology in the agri-ecosystem by the collaborative efforts of key actors acting as drivers of change. It also identifies the following intervention areas to enhance the AI-based transition of the country’s agriculture sector:

If implemented, the report argues that these interventions can lead to widespread adoption of AI-based technology in the agriculture ecosystem of the country.