AI for Earth partners
Learn about our partners working on the front lines of sustainability.
SunCulture develops irrigation and farming technology solutions to help smallholder farmers in Africa maximise yields and increase earnings.Learn about SunCulture
96% of Africa’s smallholder farmers (who comprise 60% of the population) rely on rain instead of irrigation for farming. But Africa’s rainfall has declined more than 100 mm annually since the 1970s, requiring farmers to be extremely precise with when and how they farm. To guide planting, fertilising and harvesting, they rely on traditional weather forecasts, which are typically too broad for the small land areas they are farming. As a result, their yields often fall well below the world average. Additionally, farmers typically overpay for household and farming supplies by 20-30%, affecting their ability to maximise profit and maintain their livelihoods.
SunCulture combines intelligent hardware, IoT, big data and neural networks to help farmers practice precision agriculture. Their AgOptimized app collects soil and weather data from soil sensors in the ground, local and METAR weather stations and meteorological satellites. AgOptimized uploads the data to Azure IoT Hub where it’s analysed against historical climate models using machine learning. The app then gives farmers detailed forecasts for their plots, as well as recommendations for planting, irrigating, fertilising and pest control to maximise yields at a lower cost. The farmers can also order farming supplies from SunCulture partners through the app’s marketplace, which offers items at fair prices and provides farmers with economically empowering financing options.
Farmers use AI to scale growth of crops
SunCulture’s AgOptimized app uses Microsoft Azure to compare sensor data about current conditions against historical climate models, then provides detailed forecasts and recommendations for each farm plot. These recommendations help farmers optimise planting, irrigation, fertilisation and pest control.
How AgOptimized works
Data from ground sensors, weather stations and meteorological satellites is uploaded to Azure IoT Hub and analysed against historical climate models. Machine learning models create hyper-local forecasts and in-app recommendations. Farmers can order products from AgOptimized marketplace partners and repay over time with the AgOptimized Credit Score derived from sensor data.
How SunCulture uses Azure
SunCulture uses the following Azure services:
- Azure Event Hubs and IoT Hub ingest and display IoT time-series data from AgOptimized weather, irrigation, fertiliser and pest sensors.
- Azure GPU optimised VMs train deep learning models on sensor data that help smallholder farmers optimise irrigation, fertilisation, pest control and disease management.
- Azure Blob Storage stores IoT sensor data and weather forecast data.