Over 100 data analysts, hardware buffs and software developers came together with agriculture domain experts at a two-day hackathon, titled Hack4Farming, to explore digital solutions to address agricultural development issues in India.
Hack4Farming focused on weather and systems modeling, and their potential impacts on the Indian agriculture sector. Teams explored how to leverage new modeling techniques (from ICRISAT), weather data (from aWhere, USA) and Intelligent Cloud (from Microsoft) to address the information gaps, and benefit the agriculture stakeholders including seed producers, service providers and farmers across India.
Flagging off the event, Mr Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Government of Telangana, said, “One of my amazing observations is that most of the important breakthroughs are coming from young minds or from the people who are doing things on their own. Improving agricultural productivity and ensuring sustainable food security, not just for this generation but for generations to come, is a very important challenge; and considered to be a problem which perhaps does not have any significant solutions. But now we are very optimistic with the work institutions like ICRISAT are doing and the Telangana Government is at the forefront of promoting innovation.”
At the end of two days of creative and intense brainstorming, the first prize of US$2,000 was won by team DARe (Digital Agri Rural e-Marketing) for their innovative model to link farmers to markets. They will have the opportunity to get business and sector specific mentorship services from the startup incubator T-Hub, promoted by Government of Telangana, to develop their idea into a viable business or product.
The first runner-up was ‘AgNi – Artificial Intelligence System for next generation Agriculture’ and in the second runner-up place was ‘iFarm -Transforming lives, one farmer and one farm at a time’.
“We are delighted to support ICRISAT in the Hack4Farming initiative, which aims to unlock the benefit of intelligent cloud solutions to positively impact the agriculture sector. The hackathon has highlighted that technology when harnessed correctly, has the potential to transform lives and have a major socio-economic impact,” said Mr Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India R&D Pvt Ltd.
“Hack4Farming was an exciting event and part of ICRISAT’s digital agriculture initiative. Digital technology can accelerate the pace of developing and delivering sustainable and equitable solutions to smallholder farmers and in so doing enable us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals before 2030. This includes narrowing the knowledge gap between researchers and farmers; providing timely and targeted information to farmers to manage weather and market variability and integrating farmers into profitable markets. Digital technology such as cloud computing and mobile phones provide an important platform for youth to see agriculture as a viable business. These tools will also help us manage natural resources and support a modern food system that delivers safe and nutritious food to all consumers,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.
“There is a lot of potential to develop new digital technologies in Hyderabad, which is seen right here at the Hack4Farming. We want to encourage new projects and ideas by these developers and other stakeholders to improve the lives of farmers and increase the agricultural potential of India,” said Mr Rama Iyer, Senior Vice President and Head Strategic Alliances & Innovation, T-Hub, Hyderabad.
“We believe that better information can have an enormous impact on food production to help solve the challenge of feeding a growing global population. In order to realize this, innovative, scalable, and sustainable solutions are required. Hack4Farming is global in scope and we will continue to expand these events to new regions, working with local partners, to help seed innovative solutions that improve lives worldwide,” said Mr Stewart Collis, Chief Technical Officer, aWhere.
Hack4Farming was held during 12-13 May, at ICRISAT-India with 11 teams participating, each comprising of about eight members. The two-day event was organized by ICRISAT in association with Microsoft, T-Hub incubator and aWhere.
DARe – Digital Agri Rural e-Marketing’s innovative model
A cloud-based application will connect large number of smallholder farmers with multiple buyers, transporters, warehouses, processors and other interested players. A built-in algorithm will help estimate the recommended price on any particular day. The application will also provide location specific weather forecasts to help farmers take climate informed decisions on marketing and production to minimize risk. The platform will provide information on agriculture technology providers in a radius of 40-50 km.
It will help minimize the role of intermediaries and reduce transaction costs for farmers. It will help in real-time price discovery using the current e-mandi prices, recent price trends, variety and other quality parameters. In addition, the wealth of data generated on a daily basis on agriculture marketing could be used for analysis by researchers, industry and policy makers.