Every year at CES, the global stage for innovation, you see some ‘oh wow’ breakthrough technologies. This AI-powered planting system by New Garden Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese startup is one. Meet the ULTRON Smart AI Gardener, a self-caring planting system controlled by AI.
It is a self-caring plant container with AI service supported by the UltronSMART Agriculture Platform and App. The platform supports real-time collection, process, analysis, and visualization of data from various IoT devices. Leveraging a technology it calls AIoT ecosystem.
The plant pot [conatiner] is embedded with smart lighting, a watering system, and multiple connected sensors. Which can be taken as a microcosm of a Cloud-to-edge Smart Agriculture System powered by ULTRON.
New Garden says, by cooperating with agriculture experts, the UltronSMART AI Gardener can automatically grow any plants with almost zero effort.
Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA) selected the company as one of the 100 featured Taiwanese startups to showcase at CES 2021.
Check out how the AI powered smart garden works from the video below. Tell us what you think as well in the comments.
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Amrote Abdella, Regional Director Microsoft 4Afrika, believes cutting-edge technology such as data-driven agriculture can solve the challenge of food security in Africa. Find out more on why she believes this through partner activities and programs across Africa.
One of most the prominent challenges facing Africa is providing food security for its citizens. While many farmers still rely on traditional techniques to coax a living from the land, there are opportunities to use cutting-edge technology to drive Africa towards a food-secure future.
2 billion – no access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reports that over 2 billion people do not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. A steady increase in hunger since 2014 together with rising obesity, clearly indicates the need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen food systems and protect people’s livelihoods. It seems only fitting then, that in 2020, the theme for World Food Day is ‘Our Actions are Our Future’. Accelerating innovation in agri-tech will enable data-driven farming that can optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase profitability – all while feeding a nation.
AI – Cutting-edge technology
AI in agriculture uses cutting-edge data, advanced analytics and machine learning to bring centuries-old farming knowledge into the modern age, giving farmers the tools to optimise crop yields and mitigate the effects of climate change through tools like smart irrigation. With agriculture sustaining 70% of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tools including AI, IoT and edge computing to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector, leveraging our extensive partnerships and initiatives network in the process.
AI as an Enabler
There have been references in the recent past of AI replacing people in jobs, but what happens when AI and IoT devices enable people to spend less time on menial manual labour and more time boosting productivity and crop yields? AI and cloud technology can be used to monitor soil, climate changes and more to make better decisions on when, where, and how much to plant on farms. Precision farming, brought about by the adoption of advanced technologies into the agricultural sector, will revolutionise food production.
In Kenya, SunCulture helps farmers improve their crop yields through solar-powered irrigation systems. Using IoT technology, SunCulture customers are generating 10x more annual income, experiencing a 300% increase in crop yields, and saving 17 hours of manually moving water per week. And by leveraging TV white spaces (TVWS) technology that expands high-speed internet access to underserved areas, SunCulture is bringing precision farming to more smallholder farmers.
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to collaborate in helping Nigerian farmers become more productive, reduce costs, practice sustainable agriculture and achieve better agricultural outcomes through the deployment of the FarmBeats platform, which harnesses sensors, drones and cameras for seamless data collection, helping farmers improve crop yields as well as increase income. As many as 8 million farmers and 4 million hectares will be positively affected.
Particularly for smallholder farmers, it’s a challenge to get reliable weather and market information in real-time that can help with agricultural decision-making. But almost every farmer has a phone in their back pocket.
Democratizing access to information
A mobile platform has recently been built by a team of Microsoft developers to democratise access to information using a feature or a smartphone. Farmers can access information on pest and soil diagnosis, market prices, agricultural news, success stories from neighbouring farmers, weather, soil testing and personalised recommendations for maximising yields based on their soil tests, with an intended initial impact of 100 000 farmers.
Agri-tech social entrepreneurs
Other agri-tech social entrepreneurs are effecting real changes for farmers and their supply chains. Twiga Foods is a mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform that links smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to informal retail vendors in cities. N-Frnds brings the power of digital via mobile to subsistence and smallholder farmers in Africa and other emerging markets and has nurtured a community of farmers who can communicate with each other without the need for an internet connection or mobile data. It also provides access to financial services for market segments that are traditionally underserved by formal banking and insurance.
Microsoft believes in increasing access to agricultural knowledge through collaboration. It takes an entire ecosystem to initiate change, and that includes companies, government departments and agencies, and a network of startups and entrepreneurs, all with a common goal of solving food insecurity.
Microsoft, through the 4Afrika initiative, has collaborated with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to co-create technology solutions in Africa as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries by 2021. The partnership stands alongside investments such as our support of the World Bank’s 1 Million Farmers Platform, which aims to bring one million farmers onto a digital platform over the next three years.
Driving impact in agriculture across Africa
We are also working with ministries across Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to drive impact in agriculture. In Egypt, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture, the engagement includes intelligent crop detection and water demand forecasting. Key focus being on a successful farmer engagement to promote good agricultural practices, secure data sharing between agricultural entities, and connected farms that enable data collection through agricultural IoT sensors.
Across the continent, from South Africa to Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and beyond, we are working hard to enable agri-tech through various channels and partnerships. Technology has the potential to change the face of farming, using smart tools and platforms for precision farming, predicting weather patterns, and maximising the use of scarce water resources.
By harnessing cutting-edge technology in agriculture, we can help solve the pressing issues around food security to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 of Zero Hunger and enhance economic development in the process.
Microsoft will support fourteen Kenyan innovators as part of its pledge to the World Bank’s One Million Farmers Platform initiative.
The software company through its 4Afrika engine will provide technical and business assistance to fourteen agritech kenyan innovators. Through mentorship in business development, technology architecture and go-to-market strategies.
The selected fourteen innovators displayed promising ideas during a two day disruptive agricultural technology challenge organized by the World Bank. Through those ideas they will build technology solutions for the One Million Farmers platform.
The World Bank shares that ” Kenya has the highest AgriTech intensity in Africa. With approximately 30 percent of AgriTech start-ups in Africa operating in Kenya.”
The One Million Farmers Platform initiative will address some of the challenges faced in Kenyan agriculture. Which include access to extension, financial services, markets and data-driven applications. With the aim of improving productivity, profitability and resilience through disruptive agricultural technologies. The platform will target reaching one million small holder Kenyan farmers in the next three years.
Committed to supporting agricultural transformation in Africa
As part of the partnership, Microsoft will also empower participating Kenyan government ministries with technical skills development. Both through workshops and by skilled resources through its programmes.
Amrote Abdella, Regional Director of Microsoft 4Afrika shares that Microsoft is “fully committed to supporting agricultural transformation in Africa“.
“Agriculture is a priority area of investment for us. Not only because of the enormous number of livelihoods it supports and the economic growth it drives. But also because it has a high potential to be a data driven sector”, she notes.
“With an expanding population, there’s an opportunity to use technology to improve farm productivity, optimise resource use and increase crop yields to combat rising food insecurity. We’re fully committed to supporting agricultural transformation starting in Kenya – and the rest of Africa – and more critically, the innovators who are key drivers of this digital transformation.”