How AI and data can help India’s agriculture and healthcare, discuss a panel at the Bengaluru Tech Summit

The future is about data and the fate of people depends on how they use artificial intelligence to crunch this data for better lives.

Imagine an artificial intelligence algorithm predicting how long it will take for a seedling to blossom into a ripe tomato – ready for picking and packing for the produce section of a grocery store.

This very technology is being developed and researched at NatureFresh Farms, a 20-year-old company growing vegetables on 185 acres of land between Ontario and Ohio. Intel uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect pests and predict what crops will deliver the best returns.

AI can help humanity confront one of its biggest challenges – feeding an additional two billion people by 2050 even as climate change disrupts seasons, turns arable land into deserts, and floods once-fertile deltas with seawater.

L to R: Margit Hellwig-Boette, Siddharth Balachandran, Arvind Raman, Gerd Hoefner, Anandi Iyer and Venugopal Ganapathy.

So, how do we use AI in India? At the Bengaluru Tech Summit, Margit Hellwig Boette, Consul General, Germany, who chaired an AI panel, asked whether India can make agriculture and healthcare sustainable by using data science and AI.

The Bengaluru-Indo-German-Chamber startup network's "BigSun" programme showcased Indian startups like Krishitantra, Intellicar, Amber, Docturnal, DronaMaos, and GreentecAqua and how they are impacting sectors like agriculture, environment, and healthcare.

Data and AI for the farmer

Agriculture is a very important industry for India, contributing 14.4 percent of the country's GDP. The quality of food is dependent on several unpredictable data points but there is minimal use of data in Indian farms.

Arvind Raman, Bosch Country Strategy and Business Development, says, "In the future, agri production must increase to feed the world. Unfortunately, we don't have the means and we need to use AI to help them manage inputs and improve yields through smart seeding, spraying, monitoring, and prediction of diseases. Our AI gives 92 percent accuracy for farmers."

Anandi Iyer, Director at Fraunhofer adds, "AI is of huge importance to all of us. It is going to be profound for our everyday life. Will it displace humans? It won't. AI is an assimilation of human intelligence onto the machine. The German government has a strategy paper just like India. In Germany, the want to focus on mobility, agriculture, production technologies, and healthcare."

AI for healthcare

India's spend on healthcare is only Rs 1,112 per capita. World Bank data shows that India spends only 3.74 percent of its GDP on healthcare. AI can solve several complex problems, helping in increasing healthcare penetration in the country.

Venugopal Ganapathy, CEO of Axilor Ventures, says, "if you look at problems that startups in India are solving, they are taking on scale and complexity. One of our startups wants to solve tuberculosis using AI. We have to move from diagnostics and individual screening to screening large population sets, and only AI can help you do that. Docturnal and Niramai are a couple of companies from Axilor, which use AI to solve complexities at scale."

Gerd Hoefner, MD and President, Healthineers, says, "We need doctors but AI can help them better. What can artificial intelligence do is that it can be a digital twin of the individual. Let’s take a person's dietary intake. Imagine using that data to simulate the future effects and study what type of impact it can have on the individual. Can AI help the individual with healthcare? It absolutely can. In 50 years from now, diseases will be history, thanks to AI simply because we can identify and eradicate disease fast. The reality today is that AI is already being used by a radiologist to analyse images and reduce error rates in identifying."

AI for natural disasters

Even Airbus uses AI to help save lives affected due to floods. It is trying to build a platform for Kerala and Karnataka to find out water bodies and high-risk areas. It is also helping in sustainability.

Siddharth Balachandran, Head of Airbus Bizlab, says "Bizlab works on key sustainability projects. Building a carbon credits marketplace where airlines will be able to buy these credits and offset emissions. We all think environment first, but we need to make it sustainable. We are using satellites to map water bodies and look at high-risk areas."

According to Gartner, the global business value derived from AI is projected to total $1.2 trillion in 2018, an increase of 70 percent from 2017.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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