Telangana: Govt to launch ‘Saagu Baagu’ program to boost agri through AI

Hyderabad: With an aim to utilise artificial intelligence to bolster the state’s agricultural sector, the Telangana government is all set to launch a new project called ‘Saagu Baagu’ (agriculture advancement). As part of the new initiative, the state government plans to touch at least 100,000 farmers over 4 crop cycles and establish enough readiness to scale it across Telangana.

The new initiative has been conceptualised to transform the state of agriculture by deploying emerging technologies in a scalable, inclusive and sustainable way, said a press release from Telangana IT minister K. T. Rama Rao’s (KTR) office on Tuesday. The Saagu Baagu Project is being led by the state’s Agriculture Department with support from the Agricultural University (PJTSAU), IT department, and World Economic Forum.

The new programme is in fact a result of the Telangana government’s collaboration with C4IR India, World Economic Forum, a cross-section of the AgriTech Industry and the start-up community to explore the potential of deploying emerging technologies for making a difference to the agriculture sector in the state. This was done under the flagship initiative AI4AI (AI for Agriculture Innovation), which was launched in August 2020.

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The AI4AI initiative resulted in the identification of 9 frameworks and 30 use cases along 4 parts of the agriculture value chain, namely, crop planning, smart farming, farmgate-to-fork and data-driven agriculture, stated the press release. Subsequently, the government came up with the ‘Saagu Baagu’ initiative.

“While the overall Saagu Baagu project is planned to be a 5-year focused effort, the PIPs onboarded under the EoI shall be confined to 2 years (3~4 crop cycles) across multiple districts of select priority crops such as Cotton, Chill and Turmeric for Kharif season. and Ground Nut, Bengal Gram, and Paddy for Rabi season,” said the release from KTR’s office.

It added that considering the challenges to scale emerging technologies and the multi-dimensional nature of the agriculture sector, a collaborative approach between government and the private sector as a Public-Private Cooperation (PPC) has been finalized for the Saagu Baagu Project. Under the PPC framework, the government would establish a collaboration with state institutions, which would address challenges and accelerate the adoption and usage of Agritech use cases.

In Telangana, an estimated 5 million farmers with an average landholding size of 2.77 acres (1.12 hectares1) cultivate 40.53% of the state’s geography i.e. 115 lakh acres (46.54 lakh hectares ) and contribute 14.6% to the state’s GSDP was 14.6% in 2018-19, the state government said.

For the latest initiative, the government of Telangana has prepared a request for Expression of Interest (EoI) that’ll be released in 1 to 2 weeks. The objective of the EoI shall be to onboard suitable Project Implementation Partners and their consortia of leading Agri ecosystem players, to prove and establish the transformation potential of innovative technological solutions along the Agri value chain.

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