AI-Powered Open Network VISTAAR Breaks Data Silos to Unify Indian Farmers

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In her 2023 budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam discussed the need for a Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for agriculture. As a result, VISTAAR, which stands for Virtually Integrated System to Access Agricultural Resources, was born.

Built upon the successful launch of ONDC and developed by the Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare (DA&FW), VISTAAR is an interoperable and federated public network dedicated to making agricultural information more accessible to farmers in India with the help of AI.

“The primary objective of VISTAAR is to empower farmers and enhance services through exponential technologies. However, this concept is likely to expand beyond its initial scope, allowing the entire ecosystem to participate in VISTAAR and reap benefits from its interactions,” Anand Rajan, founder at Apurva.ai, told AIM.

The idea is to bring the whole agriculture ecosystem, from farmers, extension workers, agritech companies, startups, agricultural research institutes, meteorological agencies, and consumers, together through an open, transparent and decentralised network.

In India, agriculture data and knowledge currently exist in silos. For instance, a farmer in Tamil Nadu might be seeking information on a treatment for a particular crop, however, that information might be only available with a farmer in a different part of the country.

With VISTAAR, the ministry aims to break the data silos and create a bridge where the information can flow seamlessly.

How will AI Empower VISTAAR?

“The core value of VISTAAR is to provide conversational, customised and contextual agricultural advisories to extension workers and farmers through multimodal inclusive channels, such as AI-powered bots, mobile apps, interactive voice response (IVR), web portals and more,” the ministry said in a bluebook.

The good thing about open networks is that farmers wouldn’t need a specific app to connect with the VISTAAR network.

Powered by Beckn Protocol, farmers will be able to access VISTAAR through familiar mediums like Telegram, WhatsApp, or any other relevant mobile application they are already using.

Farmers who don’t have access to smartphones can also access VISTAAR through Kissan call centres. Agents could leverage the knowledge repository to address farmers’ queries during the call quickly.

“The innovation lies in the shift from a single app interface to multiple apps and interfaces. This means that services, like those provided by ChatGPT, can be accessed through various mediums such as different chat apps or interactive voice recordings (IVR),” Rajan added.

However, farmers across India speak different languages. Hence, VISTAAR will also leverage the benefits of Bhashini to make the information available in the farmer’s native language.

The ministry also aims to utilise AI to assist farmers, providing responses that may include videos showcasing farmer innovations pertinent to their specific location and season.

“Another example of an application of AI is a startup offering large language Indic voice models leveraging VISTAAR to serve farmers and extension workers using voice as a primary interface to serve advisories and fulfil network interactions,” the ministry said.

Leveraging AI in Agriculture

The ministry also stated that in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, around 4,000 extension workers and farmers are using an AI Telegram chatbot to receive agricultural advisories.

Trained on an extensive database of farmer-centric content, this chatbot provides precise, context-specific information in Hindi, English and Telugu, with additional languages to be added soon.

In Tamil Nadu, Apurva.ai recorded the experiences of 1500 farmers by collaborating with the ministry. “We utilise this tool to grasp innovations and best practices, and most importantly, we link it back to farmers in Tamil Nadu, delivering the information not in text but through audio,” Rajan said.

When a farmer asks a question about, for instance, innovations in organic farming, they can listen to another farmer’s firsthand experience tailored to the specific context, which is powered by AI.

Likewise, Wadhwani AI has developed an AI conversational Kisan Call Centre chatbot, which assists farmers 24/7 with real-time information.

These developments showcase the power of AI, which can be built into VISTAAR and will, in turn, benefit the Indian agricultural ecosystem.

What VISTAAR Aims to Achieve?

The first phase of VISTAAR prioritises empowering farmers and frontline extension workers by providing them with timely, accurate advisories, easy access to information and knowledge resources, verified data, and learning opportunities.

Whereas the subsequent phases will unlock innovation across more use cases to unbundle agri-commerce, agri-finance (credit, insurance, etc.), agri-supply chain and logistics.

The plan is also to enable access to green energy sources, amongst others, to make Indian agriculture sustainable and climate-resilient.

Moreover, VISTAAR will improve over time with valuable feedback received from the farmers and extension workers.

The post AI-Powered Open Network VISTAAR Breaks Data Silos to Unify Indian Farmers appeared first on AIM.

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