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IBM and Texas A&M AgriLife Provide Data, Technology and Expertise to Farmers in Need


IBM and Texas A&M AgriLife Gives Tech & Expertise to Farmers

IBM – 2022 was one of the driest years on record in Texas. The Texas Department of Agriculture cited climate change as a possible threat to the state’s food supply, citing failing crops, low yields for farmers, and less pasture for cattle.

Smallholder farmers, particularly those in dry and drought-prone areas, struggle to manage their farms because they lack instructions on how much water to use for certain crops in order to assure a high harvest.

“We’re in the hills, so some areas need less water, and some areas need more,” explained David Chapin, a farmer and IBMer in Lampasas, Texas, who has been assisting IBM in testing water management technologies. “I’m not sure which areas I’m overwatering and which areas I’m underwatering, so I just take a guess.”

IBM Creating a solution with a real-world impact

What if there existed a gadget that could tell farmers when and how much to water their crops, resulting in lower input costs, higher yields, and less harmful runoff? The creation of such a tool is well underway thanks to IBM and Texas A&M AgriLife’s collaboration through the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, a pro bono social impact initiative.

Apply by May 31, 2023 for the third cohort of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator.

IBM and Texas A&M AgriLife are collaborating to provide farmers with water consumption insights, which can boost agricultural productivity while lowering economic and environmental expenses. Texas A&M AgriLife and IBM will deploy and expand Liquid Prep, a technology solution that allows “when” food preparation.

Data-driven crop management techniques

It takes massive amounts of data from numerous sources to provide high-quality insights for farmers.

The solution works by embedding low-cost sensors built by IBMers into the soil, which monitor moisture and temperature levels and subsequently upload them to the IBM Cloud.

The Liquid Prep app will combine weather forecast data from the IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite, crop-specific data from the Soil & Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) (co-managed by Texas A&M AgriLife and the US Department of Agriculture), and real-time soil moisture data from the new sensors. The tool will use artificial intelligence to evaluate the combined data and give farmers with advice on when and how much to water through a smartphone app.

What is the future of Liquid Prep?

Liquid Prep is now in the second part of a two-year IBM Sustainability Accelerator initiative focused on tool development and deployment. During the first phase, an IBM Garage technical roadmap was created to guide solution design, development, and implementation. New versions of the app and sensor are being evaluated right now.

To guarantee that the tool was sufficiently satisfying farmers’ requirements, researchers wanted to gather input from people who might benefit from it. Throughout 2022, farmers, researchers, and water managers in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas tested the earlier version of the solution. Over 100 smallholder farmers will be targeted in Louisiana in 2023 to test the approach.

Furthermore, IBM is bringing in key partners to provide even more value to the initiative. For example, the team will collaborate with the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Institute to collect additional data to train and fine-tune the machine learning models used to produce farmer suggestions. Ukraine is recognized as the “breadbasket of Europe,” and the region’s unique characteristics will give a great dataset to further develop the instrument.

The technology will also be given a new use case as a result of our collaboration: to support recovery and resource management in the midst of the Ukrainian war. Due to the difficulty in obtaining information and agricultural resources, the researchers are constructing a flood and drought assessment system to identify the most afflicted locations that require the greatest resources.