An area of focus in Microsoft’s research is Agriculture. Microsoft research scientists are focusing on unleashing the future of agriculture using data driven techniques called precision farming. The process involves using broadband connectivity through TV whitespaces, connected to IoT sensors that enable data driven farming. These data when collected over time will help farmers improve their yields and lower costs. This initiative from Microsoft is called FarmBeats.
Piloting FarmBeats in Africa
Microsoft is expanding the pilot program of FarmBeats to Africa, starting in Kenya. The program in Nairobi will be focused on addressing the specific challenges of farming in Africa with the intent of expanding to other African countries.
Data-driven digital agriculture
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO says “AI doesn’t replace human knowledge, it augments it. Talking about Microsoft FarmBeats initiative he shares that “Data from low-cost sensors in soil and drones with machine learning algorithms work with farmers’ knowledge and intuition to help them gather and parse data about their farms. Informing what, when, and where to plant in order to drive the highest-possible yields and reduce costs”.
Microsoft FarmBeats will help farmers benefit from technology innovation at the edge. Microsoft says although technology could help the farmer, its adoption is limited. This is majorly due to farms not having power, Internet connectivity on the farms and farmers not technology savvy.
To address this Microsoft says “We are working towards an end-to-end approach. From sensors to the cloud, to solve the problem. As part of the FarmBeats project, we are building several unique solutions to solve these problems using low-cost sensors, drones and vision and machine learning algorithms“.
Bill Gates visited a pilot site and shares his experience in the video below.
If you are a student, there is a Student Kit that will help you learn about precision agriculture.
Now on Azure Marketplace
Microsoft releases FarmBeats on the Azure Marketplace to help farmers with low-cost agtech solutions. Azure FarmBeats in the Azure marketplace will be a business-to-business offering. Offered at no additional charge and users will only pay for the Azure resources used. It will include a Datahub. (An API layer that enables aggregation, normalization, and contextualization of various agriculture datasets across providers). As well as an Accelerator. (A sample solution, built on top of Datahub, that jumpstarts your UI and model development).