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TNAU & NEC Laboratories Sign MoU to Co-Create Newer Agri-Tech Solutions to Improve Agri Output

NEC aims to cover majorly impacted crops within India, with enhanced accuracy over the next 12 months. According to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), farmers globally lose up to 40% of their crops to insects and diseases every year, costing industries in excess of USD 70 billion.

Shivam Dwivedi
Use of Agri-technology
Use of Agri-technology

NEC Laboratories India (NLI), an entity of NEC Corporation India - a wholly-owned subsidiary of NEC Corporation, announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), to create newer solutions to resolve agricultural issues using analytics and AI. The signing of this MoU with TNAU marks NLI’s first partnership in the ‘agri-tech’ space in India.

Since its establishment in 2018, NLI has been developing digital transformation solutions to transform the industries in India and other countries.

Through this co-creation partnership, NEC aims to create a solution that helps identify major crop disease and deficiency categories and provide appropriate remedies via Agri experts. NLI will develop a mobile app with AI/ML capability, while TNAU shall provide expert guidance and assist in data collection activity to detect diseases in this collaboration. By combining the best of both parties, early detection of disease onset through artificial intelligence can be achieved, and farmers will be able to take remedial actions promptly.

NEC aims to cover majorly impacted crops within India, with enhanced accuracy over the next 12 months. According to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), farmers globally lose up to 40% of their crops to insects and diseases every year, costing industries in excess of USD 70 billion. Similarly in India, the agriculture sector faces significant crop yield variations, which are aggravated by increased weather fluctuations (climate change), plant diseases, macro-economic developments and other uncertainties.

Today, the Indian agriculture industry faces various problems, all of which result in severe crop losses of up to 30-60% of the annual harvests. The primary reasons for loss of harvest are:

  • Diseases, resulting in loss of 15-25% of potential crop output;

  • Soil nutrient deficiency - 36.5% of soils today are deficient in most of the 21 required mineral nutrients.

  • Insects & pests, reducing crop yield for 5 major food crops by 10% to 40% globally.

The on-site solution helps farmers to increase the yield and minimize crop loss by accurately recognizing crop diseases at an early stage; providing an efficient and immediate advisory system; and monitoring growth through a constant supply of information on what to do to maintain crop health through the various phases of growth.

The MoU was signed virtually by Dr. Keiji Yamada, SVP & Head, NEC Laboratories India, and Dr. A.S. Krishnamoorthy, Acting Vice-Chancellor & the Registrar, TNAU, Coimbatore, in the presence of Dr. K.S. Subramanian, Director of Research, and Dr. K. Prabakar, Director (Centre for Plant Protection Studies).

Dr. Subramanian, Director of Research said, “India is a predominantly agricultural economy, and farmers today face a wide array of problems in the field that need to be addressed instantly. With the signing of this MoU, the university intends to use AI for the early detection of pests and diseases, and it is our honour to be joining hands with NEC Laboratories India and the NEC Group. Their decades of deep-tech expertise and problem-solving capabilities for both critical social problems, as well as industrial challenges, make them an ideal technology partner for this endeavour”.

Dr. Keiji Yamada, SVP & Head, NEC Laboratories India, said, “Over several decades of our journey, we have witnessed the exponential growth and adoption of technology that has made our lives easier and safer. We are proud to be partnering with TNAU in new ways of applying AI and Analytics to resolve crucial issues in agriculture in real-time.

This partnership is critical and timely because, apart from being an agricultural society at large, India is also the second-largest food producer in the world. India’s importance in the global food supply chain necessitates the deployment of immediate and effective measures that can anticipate and address challenges ahead of time”.

NEC has a product called Cropscope and is looking to provide further value to farmers through this activity. The initial solution idea for crop disease detection using AI was conceived through NEC’s hackathon on Agri-tech – Food wastage, which was conducted in partnership with Infobridge Holdings at Bengaluru in December 2019. Similar hackathons that NEC organised in India have been instrumental in identifying key social challenges and developing relevant solutions, across domains.

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