Microsoft wants to boost the Mexican field

The Mexican field and their agriculture have the potential and the ideal features to kick start the Microsoft FarmBeats project, according to the scientific leader and program creator, Ranveer Chandra.

FarmBeats is a AI and big data program which provides the grower with real-time information on his crops and the land to be harvested, to make more accurate and precise decisions, save time or predict pests.

Interviewed by El Financiero, Chandra explained that FarmBeats uses sensors and drones to perform a ‘mapping’ of crops and then uploads the information to the Azure cloud. All the information goes to a smart station that must be installed in the farm, where farmers can have access to it.

All this information is analyzed by learning machines to become solutions for the farmer. After this program was introduced in Mexico this month, the manager indicated that it brings connectivity to lagging areas.

“Generally, farming companies and crops are very far from cities. If you turn on a TV in that place, many or most of the channels will be ‘blank’, they are channels in blank. The more channels in blank we have there, the more capacity we will have for data transmission,” Chandra explained.

Data are transferred by the empty frequencies without using that of TV, called ‘white spaces’, having a bandwidth able to broadcast up to a high definition video.

He said the program has allies that become technology providers. One of them is the DJI drone company, which provides the drones for the program.

“We will launch this along with technology allies. We will send all the data to the cloud and then the AI will be analyzing it. The hardware, drones and sensors are our allies, existing companies that are joining us in this program”, the manager detailed.

Data collection and analysis can make harvesting quicker and more accurate, although results will depend on the crop type, extension, and the place where the crop is located, he said.

In order to educate farmers on the subject, Microsoft has experts who will teach and talk about technology to those engaged to the field.

Chandra said that allies are needed to help farmers paying for the costs of using this technology. As an example, he said that in India, the government subsidizes 80% of the cost.

“It is easier for large-scale farmers, but we also want this to reach the hands of those who need it for their small production,” he said.

“For example: soil moisture is very important when fertilizing. This crop mapping can let you know exactly, thanks to sensors, the level of soil moisture and in which areas it is necessary to apply the fertilizer, and in which others it is not right yet.”

Sensors measure, in addition to humidity, land temperature; and detect abnormalities in the subsoil, which may affect the harvest.

In an article on FarmBeats, Bill Gates gives an example of a farming company in Washington which reduced irrigation water up to 30%, and the lime amount up to 44% to control soil pH.

“More than three quarters of the poorest people in the world depend on agriculture to make a living. If we are going to win the fight against poverty, we must help farmers, and I believe FarmBeats could be a powerful tool,” stated Gates.