India's agriculture sector can revolutionise with AI: World Economic Forum

India's agriculture sector can be revolutionised through AI and emerging technologies, per the World Economic Forum report. The WEF is working in Telangana providing AI-based agritech services to farmers.

India's agriculture sector can revolutionise with AI: World Economic Forum

Friday July 21, 2023,

3 min Read

The agriculture sector in India can be transformed by promoting the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies, according to a new World Economic Forum (WEF) report.

In the report, the WEF said it helped more than 7,000 chilli farmers get access to agritech services in the first phase of the 'Saagu Baagu' ('agriculture advancement' in Telugu) project being implemented in collaboration with the Telangana government under its AI for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI) initiative.

These agritech services include AI-based advisories, soil testing, produce quality testing, and ecommerce—all in the project's pilot phase.

The state government plans to scale existing and additional agritech services in phase II (from 2023 onwards) to 20,000 chilli and ground nut farmers in three districts. The digital public infrastructure will also be introduced in phase II, while in phase III (by 2025), the target is to reach 100,000 farmers in the state.

The project was initiated in 2022 and is being implemented by Digital Green (in consortium with three agritech startups) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WEF said the project report can serve as a playbook for governments to empower their local agritech ecosystem and uplift smallholder farmers.

"As the urgency of the climate crisis becomes more evident and conflicts and natural calamities continue to devastate communities, threatening global food security, the industry is under mounting pressure to embrace sustainable practices and revamp its portfolios," the forum said in the report.

"Consequently, agriculture has evolved into a dynamic arena with investment opportunities and innovative solutions, making it an attractive domain for tech-savvy and entrepreneurial minds," it added.

It said the AI4AI initiative aims to transform the agriculture sector in India by promoting the use of AI and other emerging technologies.

While these technologies have the potential to significantly contribute to improving productivity and sustainability, they are often marked by fragmented technological infrastructure, high costs of operations, lack of access to data and limited technical expertise, while hampering the scale of their impact.

"The AI4AI addresses these challenges to scale emerging technologies, and it lies at the heart of the 'Saagu Baagu' project," the WEF said.

The WEF described this project as an example of agriculture value chain transformation by focusing on easing agritech services delivery to the end customer through administrative and policy support and digital public infrastructure, including its 'Agriculture Data Exchange' and 'Agritech Sandbox'.

"Telangana's experience highlights the need for governments to play an enabling role and consider non-financial yet high-impact areas to help scale agri-tech services. A focus on value chains is also needed to ensure efforts are focused, organised and outcome-oriented," said Purushottam Kaushik, Head of the WEF's Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in India.

"I am thrilled to announce the release of the Saagu Baagu Phase-1 report, highlighting our groundbreaking collaboration with the WEF. Through the utilisation of artificial intelligence, we aim to empower farmers with data-driven crop advisories and market intelligence, ultimately striving to foster agricultural prosperity within our state," said KT Rama Rao, Minister of ITE&C, Industries and Commerce, and Urban Development of Telangana.

Edited by Kanishk Singh