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IBM gets 'The Weather Company' going to empower farmers during lockdown

Topics Coronavirus | IBM

Operational Dashboard capturing – past and future climate on the travel path which will help plan logistics better on a given route
With the restriction in the movement of transport vehicles and closing of mandis (market places) to contain the spread of Covid-19, farmers and agriculture technology companies are facing a huge challenge. The supply chain operations of many agtech firms have been disrupted due to the lockdown. This is also the season when farmers were gearing up to harvest Rabi crops such as peas, wheat, mustard, sesame and barley. Apart from logistical challenges, the weather also plays a key role in enabling a smooth flow of crops from farms to consumers. 

This is where tech giant IBM is now stepping in, to fill the gap. The Big Blue, as IBM is known as, is offering ‘Operations Dashboard’ from its weather forecasting firm The Weather Company (TWC), for a 30-day free trial. The customisable solution is designed to function like a ‘meteorologist-in-a-box’ which actively monitors weather forecasts for conditions that may affect one’s location, operations and customers. The technology helps supply chain managers make faster, more informed decisions by combining weather forecasts with their unique business insights. 

The ‘Operations Dashboard’ is helping agtech companies that are providing inputs to farmers and working at the farm gate with the Farmer Producer Organisations to take their produce to a warehouse or market. For instance, one can determine the safety actions to employ in specific locations due to severe weather, such as tornadoes or lightning. This means, produce will reach consumers faster and less food would get spoiled.

“At a time when farmers and agtech companies are facing supply chain challenges owing to the ongoing pandemic, it is crucial for them to have access to near real-time location-specific weather and traffic views,” said Himanshu Goyal, India Business Leader, The Weather Company. “This will help the farmers make the right decisions on harvesting, processing, storage and supply of their produce, and the agtech companies to manage on-ground operations which include logistics. Our aim is to avoid wastage or spoilage of food at the farmer’s end due to inaccurate weather information and judgement.” 

‘Operations Dashboard’ is powered by IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF), an hourly-updating commercial weather system that is able to predict something as small as thunderstorms. GRAF uses advanced supercomputers, crowd-sourced data from millions of sensors worldwide to create more localised and accurate views of weather globally. 

According to IBM, farmers or agtech companies can use the entire network of roads and highways in India that is mapped on the tool to hyper-locate the start and end locations, which gives them a complete visibility into the current as well as future weather conditions, en-route. This becomes especially effective for cold chains as well as producers of fresh fruits and vegetables to transport them across cities, before they perish.

This way the farmers and agtech firms are able to make more informed decisions by proactively monitoring weather and aggregate data for all locations in one place. IBM said, the reduced wastage of produce can improve bottom lines of farmers, traders and as well as agtech firms. Also, the intuitive visualisation of the weather dashboard which is available through browsers, iOS and Android devices, enables a cross-section of users in the supply chain, right from the control centre, to the drivers in the truck, to use it easily. Whenever the system detects weather conditions that could impact the business, it sends automatic alerts and contextualises what the upcoming weather means.

TWC brings together IBM’s advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud capabilities with its high volume of weather data. The company is working with government bodies and organizations in India like the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Karnataka Agricultural Prices Commission and NITI Aayog to help solve various challenges in the agriculture sector. 

“From the last several years, we have seen that the pattern of rain and temperature variation is quite rampant. Over the years, the weather has become unpredictable and surprising which is why we are no more following the historical trends of rain and temperature variation. If weather variation data is available in advance – we can plan different sorts of crops which can take care of these variations,” said Ashok Kumar, a farmer at Hosachiguru Farm, in Karnataka.

Tata Coffee, one of the largest integrated coffee cultivation and processing companies in the world, is leveraging TWC’s technology to receive accurate weather forecasts including soil moisture and temperature information at its coffee estates. 

SatSure, a large area analytics company, is offering satellite imagery combined with weather forecasts created by TWC. During the Kerala floods and also when cyclone Titli hit the Andhra Pradesh coast in 2018, SatSure worked with the governments of both the states in providing real-time updates, information about the affected areas and prediction on fresh rains which helped in the relief and rescue operations.  

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