Microsoft open-sources AI algorithms for optimizing farm operations


Microsoft Corp. today open-sourced FarmVibes.AI, a collection of artificial intelligence models that farm operators can use to perform tasks such as planting crops more efficiently.

FarmVibes.AI is one of several technologies that Microsoft has developed as part of an initiative dubbed Project FarmVibes. According to the company, the initiative seeks to use software and connected devices such as sensors to enable more efficient farming. Microsoft eventually plans to open-source all the technologies it has developed as part of Project FarmVibes.

The newly released FarmVibes.AI toolkit includes four AI algorithms. The algorithms are designed to help farm operators collect data about their crops and use it to optimize day-to-day work. 

The first algorithm, Async Fusion, is capable of combining data from farm sensors with satellite and drone imagery. The algorithm facilitates the creation of farm maps that can be used to identify the optimal way of carrying out agricultural tasks. A farm operator could, for example, create a map that points out the best way of planting seeds in a given parcel and highlights farm sections that can’t be easily navigated by a tractor.

The FarmVibes.AI toolkit also includes a second algorithm, SpaceEye, that makes it easier to process the satellite data used in farm maps. Up-to-date satellite imagery often isn’t available when there are clouds above a farm. Microsoft’s SpaceEye algorithm substitutes the imagery with measurements from satellite-based radar instruments, which can operate even when there is cloud cover.

A third algorithm called DeepMC helps farm operators predict temperatures and wind speeds. DeepMC draws on weather station forecasts, as well as data from internet-connected farm sensors. According to Microsoft, the algorithm makes it possible to identify the best time to carry out farming tasks that can only be performed in specific weather conditions.

The fourth software tool included in FarmVibes.AI helps farm operators with sustainability initiatives. According to Microsoft, it can estimate how different farming practices would affect the amount of carbon sequestered in a farm’s soil. The tool also lends itself to other tasks, such as identifying ways of improving crop yields.  

“At Microsoft, we are working to empower growers with data and AI to augment their knowledge about farming and help them grow nutritious food in a sustainable way,” stated Ranveer Chandra, Microsoft’s managing director of research for industry.

Project FarmVibes, the Microsoft initiative through which FarmVibes.AI was developed, also includes several other technologies.  

FarmVibes.Connect is a collection of hardware and software tools for providing internet connectivity in farms. According to Microsoft, the toolkit leverages unused parts of the radio spectrum to establish wireless connections. FarmVibes.Edge, another technology developed as part of Project FarmVibes, compresses farm and crop data, which eases the task of uploading the data to the cloud for analysis.

Photo: Pixabay

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