Experts think that open sourcing agricultural technology solutions can assist address the critical food and climate change crises.
In an effort to increase farmers’ yields while lowering costs and assisting the agriculture sector in accepting responsibility for its role in climate change, Microsoft Research is open sourcing its agricultural data and networking technology. The technology platform, known as Project FarmVibes, incorporates the cloud provider’s most recent research in precision and sustainable agriculture, according to a blog post by Microsoft’s Jake Siegel. This builds on data analysis and integration work done with Microsoft’s clients like Land O’ Lakes and Bayer.
The algorithms are intended to serve as a decision-making tool at each stage of farming, from sowing the seeds through reaping the harvest. According to Siegel, this involves forecasting temperature and wind speeds, determining the ideal depth to plant seeds based on soil conditions, advising on crop types, and following best practises to keep carbon sequestered in the soil. It also involves determining the right amount of fertiliser or herbicide to use on which areas of the fields.
The artificial intelligence (AI) component of Microsoft’s FarmVibes project includes features like Async Fusion, which combines sensors and satellite imagery to create maps of soil moisture and nutrient heat, SpaceEye, which uses AI to remove clouds from satellite imagery, DeepMC, which uses sensor data and weather forecasts to predict the temperatures and wind speeds of a farm’s microclimate, and a “what if” analysis tool that speculates on how farming practises might change.
Andrew Nelson, a fifth-generation farmer and software engineer, has tested the Project FarmVibes suite on a 7,500-acre farm under his management. Nelson collaborated with Microsoft Research to evaluate the technology portfolio. He spoke about how the project’s AI will improve damage control capabilities while also saving him time and money in agricultural settings.
Microsoft intends to open source additional FarmVibes parts related to edge and connectivity services in the future, in addition to the AI.
Nelson is now piloting FarmVibes.Connect, which will utilise the unused TV white space spectrum to provide internet connectivity to rural and remote locations. Thanks to WiFi router-like solar-powered TV white space antenna, Nelson’s farm is now mostly covered, according to Siegel.
Nelson is also experimenting with FarmVibes.Edge to cleverly compress the enormous volumes of data collected by drones. This approach is able to focus on one specific problem, such as weeds in a field, while ignoring other issues.