Severe weather is impacting agriculture across the globe. The Midwestern United States has been continually flooding since March, inflicting $2.9 billion in property damage and threatening the livelihoods of farmers throughout the region. Internationally, food security is under threat from an onslaught of drought, while agriculture is already subject to the challenges of thin margins and complex global trade. Meanwhile, there is increasing pressure to do more with less to ensure food security for the growing global population.
To meet these pressures, farmers are driven to get the most out of every harvest, even if that short-term focus may have long-term ill effects on the soil and ultimately their yield. Through the subsequent impact on agricultural carbon-sequestration and future food supply, this can have a major effect on the planet.
Data could provide an answer to these challenges. With more applicable information, farmers could make better short-term and long-term decisions without having to pit the two against each other. Insurance companies could feel confident in backing what conventional wisdom says is risky but data shows is a sound investment, and the government could play an active role in subsidizing effective conservation farming techniques. But as it stands, while the key data that would enable these changes exists, it isn’t accessible enough. It is available only on a farm-by-farm basis, if at all, limiting broader use.
Helping farmers access insights from precision agriculture data
Many farmers are turning to Ag-Analytics, a leader in AI solutions, to help address these concerns. Sharing Microsoft’s goal to help monitor, model and manage Earth’s natural resources with cloud and AI, they bring precision agriculture to fruition in a platform that helps farmers leverage all available data to make the best decisions for their land.
Ag-Analytics founder Dr. Joshua Woodard wanted to offer a platform that not only provided data that could provide information about yield and other field-level factors, but which could offer broader evidence on the effectiveness of sustainable farming practices. Ag-Analytics does both. Through the combination of Azure machine learning algorithms and a large amount of agricultural data, the platform offers a variety of farm management, insurance, financial and other decision-making applications for agricultural producers. Tools like FarmScope combine diverse data sources including satellite, weather, soil, historical crop and farm equipment to create a picture of the current state of a farm’s fields and forecast for future yield. This gives farmers the information they need to feasibly make the switch to conservation practices and to better track profitability.
From the beginning, we were compelled by this approach because of how it paired individual action with the foundation for broader change. Since the onset of our partnership, Ag-Analytics’ growth has propelled it from a standard AI for Earth grantee to become one of the program’s featured projects. Now, as we look toward the future, we continue to be excited about its ability to improve individual and national practices that can help feed the planet while restoring its well-being.
New resources to empower farmers and protect the environment
Today, we’re excited to have team members from Microsoft and Ag-Analytics together at the InfoAg Conference in Missouri, discussing their latest and greatest advances, including a host of new datasets and application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs are a key component of the AI for Earth program, because easier recreation of our grantees’ successes enables broader, more scalable impact. As a result, we help grantees expand their models into these reproducible APIs, providing them with expertise and back-end support.
One of Ag-Analytics’ new APIs is a key example of this value. Focused on locational data, the API service is useful for Ag-Analytics users, enabling them to retrieve statistics and a full imaging history for a set of coordinates. This data can educate them on the conditions of that area, which in turn can help them make more informed decisions. Through inclusion in Microsoft’s API gallery, it can go a step further, helping decision makers gather that key data on sustainable farming, or aiding researchers on a myriad of important studies. To learn more about Ag-Analytics’ tools, check out a full list here.
We understand that it is a long road to drive systemic change and the path to mitigating the impact of climate change for the agriculture industry is complex. However, engagement at both the field and policy levels is promising and serves as an important step to better understand the planet and create enduring change.
Ag-Analytics is just one of more than 390 projects we have invested in through Microsoft’s AI for Earth program. Learn more about our grantees, projects and progress at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/aiforearth.