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How Indian Farmers Are Harnessing Emerging Technologies To Sustainably Increase Productivity

  • WEF 2023
  • 4 min read

The World Economic Forum’s Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture Innovation (AI4AI) initiative aims to transform the agriculture sector in India by promoting the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies. Led by the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) India and the Platform for Shaping the Future of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, the initiative brings together government, academia and business representatives to collaborate on the development and implementation of innovative solutions in the agriculture sector.

Through AI4AI, the Saagu Baagu pilot was launched in partnership with the Government of Telangana, making it the first Indian state to implement a framework for scaling up emerging technologies and improving productivity, efficiency and sustainability in the agriculture sector. The pilot is driven by C4IR India, Government of Telangana and Digital Green in collaboration with three agricultural technology businesses: AgNext, Krishitantra and Kalgudi. As of January 2023, more than 7,000 farmers have enrolled in the pilot project, with a focus on chili producers. These farmers are receiving support in the form of various AI technologies, including sowing quality testing, soil testing, crop health monitoring, window prediction and tillage estimation, as well as accessing new customers and suppliers in different geographies.

What’s the challenge to implementing AI for agriculture in India?

India is faced with the challenge of feeding a growing population while also addressing such risks as climate change, pandemics and supply chain disruptions. To address these challenges, the agricultural sector needs to become more agile and efficient.

There are currently more than 1,000 agri-tech startups in India offering a range of tech-based solutions, including digital finance, micro-insurance, access to agricultural inputs, quality testing, traceability and market connect platforms. They have the potential to significantly contribute to improving productivity and sustainability, but fragmented technological infrastructure, high cost of operations, lack of access to data and limited technical expertise, hamper the scale of these technologies.

Our approach to supporting Indian farmers use AI technology.

In 2021, the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India developed the AI for Agriculture framework for public-private partnership through consultations with the Government of India and state government of Telangana, and supported by the Forum’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Platform. In this effort, C4IR India also consulted other stakeholders including academics, agriculture start-ups and established businesses, professional organizations and civil society.

AI for agriculture in India framework
The emerging big picture of AI for agriculture
Image: World Economic Forum

The AI4AI framework lies at the heart of the Saagu Baagu pilot. The first phase has focused on supporting chili producers and relevant value chains in Telangana. India produces nearly 36% of chili worldwide and nearly 23.5% of all chili production in the country comes from Telangana.

Other tools that are being developed to further strengthen the digital agriculture ecosystem include:

  • An agriculture “sandbox”, which will allows for safe testing and evaluation of AI technologies in a controlled environment.
  • A data exchange and a new data management policy, which aims to ensure that data collected is properly managed and used in a way that is ethical and transparent.

By bringing together a range of stakeholders, the Saagu Baagu project has enabled collaboration and created a converged approach to introduce the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Indian farmers.

One example of AI in agriculture is an AI-based chatbot developed by Digital Green in collaboration with ColoredCow. This chatbot uses AI to provide farmers with customized notifications and short videos on a real-time basis, helping them plan and manage their crops more efficiently. Another example is an AI-based food quality assessment technology developed by Agnext. This assessment machine simplifies the process of on-spot quality standardization as well as fostering economic, social and ecological profits.

As 7,000 farmers are using these technologies in their daily activities, all the information and insights from the pilot are being leveraged to further elaborate the framework and expand its implementation to other Indian states as well as globally through the C4IR Network.

Get involved.

C4IR India is sharing its learnings with other centres, including in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Colombia. Organizations and governments are invited to collaborate with the C4IR to help make a positive impact on agriculture around the world. Read more about the impact of C4IR India.

Contact us to join this global initiative and help unlock the full potential of agriculture through innovative technologies.