Google said that Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence is one of 20 organizations that will share $25 million in grants from Google.org, credit and consulting from Google Cloud and coaching by Google's AI experts as a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge.
The Google AI Impact Challenge was an open call to nonprofits, social enterprises, and research institutions from around the world to submit their ideas to use AI to help address societal challenges. Over 2600 organizations applied. Wadhwani AI will receive a $2 million grant to create technologies that will help reduce crop losses in cotton farming, through integrated pest management.
More than a billion people live in smallholder farmer households worldwide, and many of these farmers struggle with avoidable pest damage that can wipe out up to 50% of annual crop yield. For example, in India, for the 30 million people – 6 million farmers and their families – that depend on cotton farming for a living, inability to manage pests effectively is one the biggest risks. This, despite the fact that cotton accounts for close to half of India's pesticide usage.
In Wadhwani AI's project, AI technology which runs on a basic smartphone, classifies and counts pests based on photos of pest traps taken by farmers and agriculture program workers. This solution can be used to provide millions of farmers with timely, localized advice, reducing crop loss and over-use of pesticides by improving the timing of usage.
In this effort, Wadhwani AI is partnering with the Government of Maharashtra and members of the Better Cotton Initiative. They have facilitated farmer interactions and data collection, and will ultimately be able to integrate the solution into their programs. The project has the potential to develop a template that can be replicated in large-scale agriculture programs worldwide.
Next week, members of the Wadhwani AI team will travel to San Francisco to dive into execution. For five days, all 20 organizations will join Google AI experts, Project Managers and the startup specialists from Google's Launchpad Accelerator for a program that will last six months, from May to November 2019. Through the Launchpad program, each of the 20 grantees will develop their own OKRs— Objectives and Key Results and set timelines for project completion. Each organization will be paired with a Google expert who will meet with them regularly for coaching sessions, and will also have access to other Google resources and expert mentorship.
Raghu Dharmaraju, Wadhwani AI's VP Products and Programs, said, “Small farmers worldwide depend heavily on government and nonprofit programs to figure out what to do at every step of the crop cycle. By using AI to augment human capabilities and overcome systemic challenges in these large-scale programs, we can help millions of farmers. Pest management is just the beginning.”
Dr. P Anandan, the institute's CEO, said, “Wadhwani AI's mission is to use AI to help improve the lives of the billions of poor and underserved communities throughout the world. Agriculture is one of the critical domains in which we apply our efforts. We are grateful to Google and delighted to have their support and the benefit of their deep expertise and experience in developing AI solutions at scale.”
“We received thousands of applications to the Google AI Impact Challenge and are excited that Wadhwani AI was selected to receive funding and expertise from Google. AI is at a nascent stage when it comes to the value it can have for the social impact sector, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work and considering where there is potential for use to do even more.” said Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org.