How Microsoft is partnering with Land O’ Lakes in India to help sustainable farming

By Navanwita Bora Sachdev July 12, 2018
agricultural tech india

In agriculture, sustainable farming is becoming the need of the hour the world over. India is still struggling with food security. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 190 million of the Indian population remains hungry on a daily basis.

India’s yield per hectare of rice at 2,177 kgs is behind China at 4,263 kgs and Brazil at 3,265 kgs. While the challenges for the required dramatic improvement lies in the inept rural transport system, need for awareness regarding crop treatment, dependence on irregular monsoons, and the receding agricultural land giving way to urbanization. The Indian farmer’s access to modern farming technology is also limited.

Currently, in countries like the US, map labeling has become a part of efforts in sustainable farming. It is a method of studying satellite images to identify whether sustainable practices are implemented efficiently or not. The method recognizes and marks visible evidence of practices, for example, the presence of filter strips and riparian buffers. Filter strips are tracts of vegetation, while riparian buffers are land mounds used to protect water sources.

Map labeling can help with the collection of geospatial data for sustainability practices over time, and the data can be analyzed by experts to improve practices or identify areas that need specific help.

Seeing that map labeling is handled manually, utilizing much time and energy of conservationists, Microsoft has now partnered with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN to automate map labeling tasks, focusing on marking waterways, terraces, water and sediment control basins, and field borders. The initiative helps farmers improve sustainability outcomes by applying the latest best practices, especially the ones laid down by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

Such technology in Indian agriculture could enhance production in farming while protecting farmlands. Still, efforts for sustainable farming are on the right track in India, albeit at a slower pace.

BASF India is offering seed treatments to protect crops from disease and enhance plants. BASF has also developed a certified compostable biodegradable mulch film from its bioplastic, to save the soil from contamination.

The company also trained farmers and spray-men across India in sustainable and responsible use of crop protection products through their farmer outreach programmes, Samruddhi and Suraksha Hamesha.

In Maharashtra, A Climate Smart Village Programme for the tribal regions of Maharashtra was launched in 2016 to infuse practices like zero-till farming, integrated nutrient and water management, and proper harvesting and storage.

Currently, the Tata Group is running an innovation tech programme on the use of drones for monitoring and improving farm productivity. R. Mukundan, MD of Tata Chemicals told The Tech Panda, “A critical element in Agrotech is not just digitally connecting farmers for better data like soil, seeds, etc., but also improving on storage, logistics, and transportation, since farmers are very scattered and remote. Things are improving, but I think a lot more can be done there, and I think agrotech companies are doing terrific work.”

The agricultural tech scene in India has been warming up to fill the gaps in farming in the country. Several ideas have been brewing to help with precision agriculture, farm-related intelligence, farming gadgets, etc. Upcoming ag-tech startups in India include the Farm to Business (F2B) venture Crofarm, the IIT-incubated drone startup Aarav Unmanned Systems, the ICT-based CropIn, farm equipment aggregator Gold Farm, and the supply chain managing Ninjacart.

*A version of this article was originally published on our sister site The Tech Panda.