Microsoft on Tuesday announced it has selected seven Indian grantees for its $50 million "AI for Earth" programme aimed at empowering people and organisations to solve environmental challenges through the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The seven recipients will receive access to Microsoft Azure Cloud and AI computing resources, in-depth education and technology trainings on these tools and additional support as their projects mature.
India now has the third largest number of "AI for Earth" grantees, after the United States and Canada.
"From the Microsoft Research Lab in Bengaluru to the Digital India initiative at the corporate level, we have seen a focus on initiatives like wildlife conservation, water sustainability and agriculture for small-holder farmers, among others, which are of significant importance to a large population in a geography like India," said Lucas Joppa, Chief Environmental Officer, Microsoft Corporation and Lead for Microsoft AI for Earth.
Launched in July 2017, the focus areas of the five-year programme are climate change, agriculture, biodiversity and water.
The "AI for Earth" programme has chosen Indian Institute of Technology and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad in the agriculture category.
IIT, together with the Technical University of Munich, is designing a low-cost tool for monitoring plant health in resource-limited regions.
ICRISAT is using AI, cognitive services and cloud computing to enhance pest forecasting and prediction models and farm advisory services to enable sustainable agriculture production in developing parts of the world.
In the field of biodiversity, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru is developing an AI-enabled tool to document and quantitatively assess the abundant habitats and rich biological resources in the North-East.
Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi is working on an intelligent tool for identifying and locating monkeys in human habitats, helping researchers implement more effective population control.
In the field of climate change, Symbiosis Institute of Technology, Pune is using both smart meter and socio-economic data to develop an AI-enabled prototype for smart meter data analytics, thus helping improve energy management for utilities and consumers.
Selected in the field of water, India Institute of Science, Bangalore is developing a scalable solution using data analytics and machine learning under its Eqwater project to ensure equitable water distribution in India's large cities.
Also selected in the water category, Symbiosis Institute of Technology, Pune is developing Smart Environment Information and Management System (SEIMANS) to monitor and predict water, air and soil conditions for a variety of smart city applications.
"We congratulate the recipients and are excited by the potential for advances in AI and sustainability that will benefit India and the world," said Keshav Dhakad, Group Head and Assistant General Counsel - CELA, Microsoft India.
In about a year, "AI for Earth" has grown from 20 grantees to 147 in more than 40 countries, with $1.1 million of Azure Cloud credits awarded till date.
"I think what's special about India is that it has a large workforce that has the technical skills to take advantage of the tools that we're trying to put in people's hands," Joppa noted.