India’s agritech startups are employing data mining and AI to improve crop yield, make farming profitable
By Nivedita N
In 2016, The Times of India reported that 253 farmers from Lalkheda village in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh received an average of Rs 2.83 (4 US cents) each as insurance payouts for the loss of their soybean crop under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (the flagship prime minister’s crop-insurance scheme). The insurer blamed the farmers for taking insufficient cover.
The story got 29-year-old Prateep Basu, then an engineer with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), thinking. How was it possible, he wondered, that a country which had been using remote-sensing technology for decades could fail to use it for accurate crop forecasting when the lives of so many millions crucially depended on such information?
Basu brainstormed with two of his colleagues, Ishan Tomar and Vivek Kumar, and the trio roped in another ISRO engineer, Abhishek Raju. The four of them went on to form SatSure, a data-analytics startup with “a mission to evolve crop insurance products and provide an accurate risk assessment of crop yield by integrating climatic variables with geospatial and economic datasets.”
Agritech startups seem to be having their moment in the sun. There are many startups like SatSure that are disrupting the Indian agricultural economy in unexpected ways. Intello Labs, for example, uses image-recognition software to monitor crops and predict the health of farm yields.
Photo courtesy of Open Data Watch.