Indian non-profit startup Wadhwani AI’s has teamed up with Google’s philanthropic arm in its first venture in Asia – Protecting cotton crops with the help of CottonAce app! Let’s see how this will help improve the startup’s AI-powered farm decision support system, and protect farmer’s livelihood.
Crux of the Matter
Pests Tormenting Cotton Crops
About 6 million farmers cultivate cotton which is India’s third-largest agricultural product after rice and wheat. In 2017, Maharashtra’s 50% cotton crop was destroyed by pests.
Attack Of The Pink Bollworm!
Also called moth larva, it decimates 20% to 30% of cotton crops in an average year. Hard to detect, these insects lay their eggs on the cotton bolls, or seed capsules, and the larvae eats the seeds and damage the fibers.
What’s Wadhwani AI?
It’s a Mumbai based independent, non-profit research institute. Started in 2018, it is dedicated to developing Artificial intelligence solutions for social good.
Joint Venture With Google
To improve Wadhwani’s “AI-powered farm decision support system”, an app which uses AI to identify the pests eating crops. Previously, the trajectory of the infestation was predicted and remedy advice is taken from agricultural experts, which was time-consuming.
‘CottonAce’ To The Rescue!
- Using this app, farmers can take a photo of a pest trap containing the bugs.
- The app verifies if the image is authentic, and then classifies and counts the pests.
- Trained on 30,000 images, the AI model predicts “the next generation of eggs and larvae before they become an infestation”.
Instant Advice By AI
The AI gives app users quick advice on how to counter the incoming infestation.
Each geographic community tends to have “lead farmers,” who can talk about CottonAce in village meetings.Dhruvin Vora, Seniou product manager at Wadhwani AI
If pesticide is needed, the app will teach farmers to spray considerately instead of indiscriminate use, which damages soil quality and the farmers’ health. For less serious infestations, organic products might be suggested like neem oil.
Positive Results Of Using CottonAce
Last year, CottonAce pilots were deployed in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Telangana. As per an independent assessment, farmers who followed the app’s advice experienced 26.5% increase in profit margins and 38% decrease in pesticide costs.
“Deeply Personal” Initiative, Says Google CEO
In 2020, Google committed to investing $10 billion in helping India’s small businesses to digitize. This included AI for social good in agriculture. Wadhwa AI plans to advice 300,000 farmers this year, and 2 million farmers by 2022.
- Artificially intelligent robot “Sophia”, created and programmed by Hanson Robotics, is the first robot in the world which has a citizenship of Saudi Arabia. Hanson Robotics is a Hong Kong-based humanoid robotics company.
- In 1998, the first ever Google Doodle was created. It depicted the Burning Man Festival. It was designed by the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.