04:07 pm Chennai: In a bid to accelerate innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in India, scientists from IIT-Madras on Wednesday launched a platform called 'AI4Bharat' that would help build AI solutions to address local problems in agriculture, health care and other sectors. Founded by Dr Mitesh M Khapra and Dr Pratyush Kumar, assistant professors in the department of computer science and engineering, the platform is open to students who would be mentored to solve real-world problems and accelerate AI innovation. "AI is one of the defining technologies of this age. However, much of the research in AI today is driven by the problems of the West. For instance, building autonomous cars takes priority over building systems that can monitor the condition of rural roads," said Kumar. "We need to change this by shifting the focus to India. This is where domain experts and the government would play an important role -- identify problems that are unique to India and can benefit from AI," he added. Khapra and Kumar have also co-founded "One Fourth Labs" (incubated at the IIT Madras Research Park) with a mission to design and deliver affordable hands-on courses on AI and related topics. "To solve such problems, it is important to move AI research and development out of silos and create a platform where AI professionals can come together to design and build impactful solutions. With this in mind, our immediate goal is to create a community of 100 selected AI experts and 50 domain experts," Khapra noted. The "One Fourth Labs" start-up would work closely with AI4Bharat and offer basic and advanced courses in AI at affordable prices - as low as Rs 1,000 for a five-month online course.
04:07 pm Hyderabad: The National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) is working on a new technology in aquaculture to help double the income of Indian farmers, an official said on Monday. The institute has recently established a ‘Backyard Re-circulatory Aquaculture System' developed by Cochin University of Science and Technology. The system, an intensive fish culture pond, enables high density stocking of fish in cages. This would allow off-setting of the load by stocking different varieties and sizes of fish in smaller cages in a pond, the institute said in a statement. Since the water requirement for this system is quite low, the high-density stocking of fish in different cages enables flexibility in managing a fishpond. "We can only double the income of farmers by promoting integrated farming practices. Such technology-backed smart farming solutions will encourage youth to undertake farming as an occupation," said W.R. Reddy, Director General at NIRDPR. This system, inaugurated at the Institute's Rural Technology Park, was established with funding support of the National Fisheries Development Board, a government organisation. Fish varieties that can be grown in the system include Tilapia, Pangasius, Murrel and Pearlspot. The economics of growing Genetically Improved Farm Tilapia (GIFT) in the pond, for a stocking period of 120 days over three cycles per year, demonstrates that an average monthly return of Rs 25,750 can be expected from fish culture. The aquaculture system can act as a source of additional income for farmers located even in low water availability areas, helping them double their income, the statement said. In addition, the sludge periodically pumped out of the pond can be utilised to grow agriculture crops without the addition of chemical fertilizers, it said. Given that the intensive fish culture does not require to be limited in geography to coastal areas, it can also be used in inland areas, further confirming the flexibility of the system. The Rural Technology Park at NIRDPR will demonstrate the functioning of the system and provide necessary training to farmers, self-help groups (SHGs) and youth who are keen on undertaking fish culture for enhancing their income.
04:07 pm New Delhi: Sugar output in India may drop to a three-year low next season from a record as dry weather shrivels cane plants in some major growing areas of the country that vies with Brazil as the world’s top grower. Production may slide to 28 million to 29 million tons in the year that begins 1 October from 33 million tons this year, said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd. Droughts are withering cane fields in parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka, and the monsoon is delayed, reducing prospects for the coming crop. A lower harvest would trim a record domestic surplus, potentially curtailing exports and supporting global prices. India swings between being a sugar importer and exporter, depending on the size of local output. “Parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka are reeling under drought, which is adversely affecting cane productivity and sugar recovery," Naiknavare said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Production will also depend on this year’s monsoon rains."
04:07 pm NEW DELHI: Indian farmers have planted 14.7 million hectares with summer-sown crops, down almost 10% from the previous year, the farm ministry's data showed on Friday, as weak monsoon rains delayed sowing in most parts of the country. The area planted with cotton was at 2.7 million hectares versus 3.2 million hectares the prior year. Planting of rice, the key summer crop, was little changed at 2.7 million hectares. Corn planting was 1.1 million hectares against 1.2 million hectares. Other crop plantings such as pulses, sugar cane and oilseeds like soybean were also down versus last year. Farmers start planting their summer-sown crops from June 1, when monsoon rains are expected to reach India, where nearly half of farmlands lack irrigation. The figures are provisional and subject to revision as updates arrive with the progress of the June-September monsoon season. Monsoon rains were below average for the fourth straight week, with rainfall scanty over central and western parts of the country, raising concerns about major crop production and the impact on the nation's economy.