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Hackathon throws up innovative ideas for agricultural development in India

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Women group in India. Photo Credit: CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Over 100 data analysts, hardware buffs, and software developers came together with agriculture domain experts at a two-day hackathon titled Hack4Farming. They worked to explore digital solutions to address agricultural development issues in India, reshaping strategy and practice through collaboration.

Hack4Farming focused on weather and systems modeling and their potential impacts on the Indian agriculture sector. Teams explored how to leverage new modeling techniques, weather data, and Intelligent Cloud to address the information gaps. This knowledge sharing benefits all stakeholders—including seed producers, service providers and farmers across India.

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,” said Mr Jayesh Ranjan, Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Government of Telangana, flagging off the event.

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 the Government of Telangana, to develop their idea into a viable business.

The first runner-up was ‘AgNi - Artificial Intelligence System for next generation Agriculture’ and  the second runner-up was ‘iFarm -Transforming lives, one farmer and one farm at a time’.

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.

Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT also expressed his excitement:

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,”

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.

The presentations of the top three teams can be viewed: DARe, AgNi and iFarm

Winning Idea

DARe - Digital Agri Rural e-Marketing’s innovative model

A cloud-based application will connect large numbers 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.

This work is revolutionary because 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, benefiting all stakeholders.

The team: Shalander Kumar, Systems Modeler, ICRISAT; Srinivasa Rao Chukka; Data Management, ICRISAT; Sandeepkumar Satpal, Mentor, Microsoft; Narasimha Murty Muttireddi, Mentor, Microsoft; Shweta Singh, Research Scholar, ICRISAT; Chandramani Raj, Research Scholar, ICRISAT; Naveen Arora, Research Scholar, ICRISAT; Ramanagouda SG, Research Scholar, ICRISAT.

This is a repost of a press release by ICRISAT.

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