Microsoft has collaborated with USDA or the US Department of Agriculture to help farmers so that they can leverage AI or artificial intelligence in food production. The department wants to help farmers enhance yields, reduce costs, and grow climate change crops. It can do it via an agriculture program, known as FarmBeats.
What is FarmBeats?
FarmBeats is a program that uses geographical information mapping system software from ESRI, a Microsoft partner for collecting data from drones, sensors, tractors, and satellites. It offers this data to a cloud-based AI model that offers a complete picture of a farm condition. Most farms have no or very little internet access. It transfers data via unused broadcasting frequencies in television channels at a farm and then to a Microsoft cloud.
Microsoft partners with USDA to help farmers leverage AI
The USDA pilots this program in its 7,000-acre farmland at Beltsville Agricultural Center in the US. The fields have fifteen sensors, which measure humidity, soil temperature, and acidity, which results from plants and cover crops that are grown in the off-season for managing pests, limiting weeds, improving soil, and preventing erosion for the major crops.
These sensors track the water levels present in the soil that can determine the level of water retention and then inform water budgets, wind speed, air temperature, and precipitation are tracked by weather stations. A tractor has sensors fitted in it that can assess biomass, crop heights, and greenness that can indicate plant health.
If the project is successful, it shall allow farmers to observe data generation by FarmBeats. USDA researchers use this data for providing site-specific insights and web-based tools to framers that can help them allocate resources in a better way. Due to this, farmers shall have an innovative manner for implementing practices, which benefit the climate directly. This partnership shall offer an avenue where farmers can produce cost-effective agriculture products.
FarmBeats began in 2015, who is now the chief scientist of Microsoft Azure Global. It was a way farmers helped to grow food as well as improve the livelihoods. This initiative grew from an employee hackathon project that has become a project for Microsoft AI, a program providing AI and cloud tools for organizations looking for sustainable development solutions for an environmental challenge.
The USDA pilot is an important test case for a top research farm. It is used in several states at some farms. Microsoft constantly works with manufacturers that can integrate its capabilities into products that can make programs available in 6 months.
Data is becoming an important tool that can help shape the future of this program. Data is collected for initiatives that can show carbon neutrality in the soil and it allows the farm in selling carbon credits. Data is important to farms because consumers, mainly the younger ones wish to know the place where the food comes from.
Transparency is a major issue in food. If you use traditional practices, then consumers have had a lot of faith.