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Agricultural Works will be done without manpower, NITI Aayog is thinking of ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Industrialization, urbanization and globalization have given boost to a new dimension of mechanization, ie the use of Artificial Intelligence. Its use in agriculture has also been discussed. How and to what extent will it be beneficial for Indian farmers?

The Green Revolution, which began in the year 1960, has now reached a new era. India has been constantly making progress in the field of agricultural technology. But so far only one third of all Indian farmers have adopted advanced technology. The Government believes that if all farmers use advanced technologies, India can become one of the world’s leading producers of foodgrain and other agricultural products. At the same time, it will have an impact on employment generation in the country. Advanced and future technologies are likely to increase farmers’ income, a reason why the Central Government is working on it. One such technology is ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI).

One of the basic problems faced by Indian farmers is of weather forecasting. Regardless of all effort, irrigation tools are not as widely available as they ought to be. Then there are the problems of hailstone, incidents of excessive or scanty rainfall and drought that the farmers face. These directly affect crop production.

 Instead of labourers, robots will be seeding, weeding and tilling

The government has now taken several initiatives to use technology that will not only increase the income of the farmers but will also predict the weather accurately. Preparations are afoot to uplift the state of livelihood of small and medium farmers with the help of artificial intelligence, cloud machine learning, satellite imagery and advanced analytics. Agricultural robots are also being developed to monitor soil health and carry out other agricultural activities such as harvesting, while machine learning models are being developed for analysis of environmental impacts and weather forecast.

Similarly, autopilot tractors are also very useful. Unlike the present-day tractors, these are unmanned. The tractor can be controlled remotely to do various tasks – from sowing and cultivation of a field to harvesting of crops. This can be done even with a mobile phone. The tractor, equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS), runs slowly but is more efficient than the traditional ones.

Unmanned tractors: Capable of doing everything from ploughing to harvesting

The tractor can check the health of the soil while it is ploughing. The sensors fitted in it give information on the weather dynamics to its user. A camera fitted in it provides the real time condition of the field which one can monitor from home.

Such tractors won’t be needed in the coming years

In India, the Tata Group is using currently automation in agriculture. It is in the process of creating drones that can spray insecticides and other essentials in the agricultural fields without human help.

Relax at home, everything will be done by the drones

According to Anna Roy, Adviser, NITI Aayog (National Institute of Transforming India), the government aims to help farmers increase their income with the aid of technology. The government is collecting data through remote sensing, image recognition, Internet of Things (IoT) Devices, drones and ISRO. Artificial Intelligence will enable farmers to get accurate information about the time of sowing, insect attack and weather forecast. This technique is already in use in Karnataka. As a result there has been an increase of 31 per cent in the farmers’ income.

Agreement with IBM: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and IBM representative

According to Anna Roy, pilot projects have been initiated in ten districts of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and some other states. For this, the NITI Aayog has partnered with IBM. She said AI will not only help in the correct use of resources in the agriculture sector but also promote scientific agriculture and thus increase crop production.

Despite the advantages, it is also true that the Indian farmer is largely unaware of the modern agricultural techniques and practices. There is a need to create awareness among farmers to enable them to adopt new technologies. Such initiatives will help farmers to take care proper of their crop which will in turn boost crop productivity. Therefore, for rapid development in the agricultural sector, the Government will need to focus its attention on these issues.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence is made up of two words. Artificial, meaning, synthetic, i.e., an object which is not natural and is made by humans. Intelligence refers to the ability to think, understand and learn. This is a system that is capable of responding in a manner that is even better than a human. It is abbreviated as AI.

Simply said, AI is a type of software that allows a computer to respond like humans or even better than humans. AI uses insights from fields such as philosophy, sociology, mathematics and language. It can be divided into four parts. First, its ability to think like a human; second, behaving like a human; third, its ability to understand facts which are sensitive, intelligent and require contemplative logic and thinking; and fourth, its ability to respond on the basis of logic and ideas. It is a system that is developed artificially and can work like a human, think and respond.

When did it start?

Work on Artificial Intelligence began in the 1950s. According to its creator John Mccarthy, AI is the science and engineering of developing intelligent computer programs i.e., intelligence shown by machines. Many films such as Star Wars, I,Robot, Matrix, Terminator, Blade Runner have been made on artificial intelligence and the concept can be understood to a great extent by watching these movies. In 1997, a system equipped with Artificial Intelligence defeated Gary Kasparov, one of the greatest players of chess in the world.

Although the concept of Artificial Intelligence was introduced in the 1950s, it was not until the 1970s that its importance was fully recognized. In 1981, Japan initiated a project called the Fifth Generation wherein the outline of a 10-year program for the development of supercomputers was presented. Subsequently, other countries also became interested. The United Kingdom developed a project called ALVI. Countries of European Union also started the European Strategic Programme on Research in Information Technology (ESPRIT). Following this, in 1983, a few private institutions together established a union named Microelectronics and Computer Technology for the development of advanced techniques for artificial intelligence.

Possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in India

In India, the use of Artificial Intelligence is still in its early stages. However, there are many areas in the country where this technology can be used. Given its potential in the development of the country, industries have suggested that the government identify areas where the use of artificial intelligence can be beneficial. The government also intends to use artificial intelligence wherever possible. It has taken the initiative to coordinate with the industries in building a model for the use of artificial intelligence, while the industries have asked the government to focus on establishing an Authority that will decide and make rules and regulations and monitor the use of Artificial Intelligence. Apart from this, industries have asked the government to identify the potential areas where AI can be used on priority basis. There have been suggestions for the use of this technology in education, power generation, health, transport, agriculture etc.

In any case, the government is serious about it and a committee under the chairmanship of the Deputy Chairman of the NITI Aayog, Rajiv Kumar, has been formed to frame the Artificial Intelligence Programme at the national level which will have, in addition to representatives of the government, academicians and Industry representatives. Apart from this, the government is planning to promote research, training, human resources and skill development in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Digital Manufacturing, Big Data Intelligence, Real Time Data and Quantum Communication.

How significant is the matter to the Central Government can be gauged from the fact that in the current budget, the government has made a provision of 480 million dollars for Fifth Generation Technology Startup, in which Artificial Intelligence has been given prominence. In the budget of 2018-19, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley has stated that the NITI Aayog will soon formulate the National Artificial Intelligence Programme (NAIP) framework. Remember, China had outlined its three-tier Artificial Intelligence programme, based on which it now aims to become a world leader in this field by 2030.

There is, however, a need for caution. There are as many risks attached to machines with artificial intelligence, as there are benefits. There is the continuous threat of danger that can be caused by even the slightest negligence. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have already warned the world about the risks. They say that if deployed incautiously, this technology can prove to be extremely dangerous. Questions are also being raised about whether these clever machines will increase unemployment or make humans more efficient.

These questions are important in the Indian social and economic context where abundant human resources are plagued by unemployment. Additionally, land is unevenly distributed among the various sections of the society. However, if we do not take these problems into account, Artificial Intelligence will definitely upgrade Indian agriculture and farmers will also be benefited from it. But, as of now, we cannot ignore these issues.

Translator: Swayam Vid, copy-editor : Maitreyee Saha/Lokesh

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About The Author

Kumar Sameer

Kumar Sameer is a senior journalist. He has worked for several newspapers including 'Rashtriya Sahara'. He has also been the resident editor of the Delhi edition of the Hindi daily 'National Duniya'

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