Microsoft details its role in transforming agriculture through AI

SnoValley Tilth Farm in Carnation, WA. (Photo by John Brecher for Microsoft)

Microsoft has often explained in the recent past how its AI services are being utilized in various sectors. This includes the deployment of AI solutions to help endangered species, keep infrastructure safe, solve environmental challenges, and more.

Today, the tech giant detailed some of the ways in which it has leveraged the power of AI to transform agriculture. As opposed to innovative technology that may not be suitable for farmers living in low-resource communities, other applications and initiatives that harness Microsoft's AI services have been highlighted instead.

To start off, the firm is working with nonprofit International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Andhra Pradesh on the southeast coast of India. This work is primarily focused toward helping farmers in the area increase crop yield through a pilot project - AI Sowing. The app utilizes forecasting models powered by Azure to help determine the best time to plant crops, the ideal sowing depth, among other uses. Once again highlighting the fact that this tech is aimed toward the low-income communities, the information can be notified to farmers through text messages on basic feature phones. In the couple of years this project has been up for, participating farmers have experienced 10 to 30 percent more harvests for a wide range of crops.

Another image from the same farm (Photo by John Brecher for Microsoft)

Another such initiative drawn attention toward is Project FarmBeats. This was launched at the Dancing Crow farm, located close to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond. The project involves the use of sensors meant to measure environmental factors like soil moisture and temperature, along with drones that capture aerial images of the land. The gathered data is then used by cloud-based AI models to help provide an overall image of the kind of conditions on the farm at that particular moment. This assists farmers in making better decisions regarding what sort of action to take at what time. As is aforementioned, this kind of tech is also aimed to be deployed on smaller farms later, with expectations for similar results.

Lastly, Microsoft has mentioned Australian Consolidated Milk's (ACM) AI-based operations management system that aims to address the huge amount of food wastage. The system has been built upon the Dynamics 365 platform and Azure Cognitive Services which automates the pumping of milk from tanker trucks to silos. Furthermore, ACM is also utilizing a temperature monitoring system that leverages Microsoft tech including Azure and SQL. This does not only send alerts to farmers and drivers upon major problems like electrical power failures, but also simpler ones such as minor temperature fluctuations.

Microsoft believes that initiatives such as the aforementioned are helping and will continue to help in increasing production, employment opportunities, efficiency, and more, thereby transforming the agricultural sector in more ways than one.

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