Our mission, through SBSF (Science, Business & Sustainable Futures) Consultancy, is to leapfrog intensification of agriculture through extensive mechanization focusing on a few crops and large farms (like in the US where corn, wheat, soybean, cotton and hay makes up 90% of the harvested acreage), to more balanced, efficient and yet sustainable, and diversified cropping systems by enabling precision agriculture. Taking into consideration that Indian agriculture is still dominated by resource deficient farmers, living and farming under extreme weather conditions, with average land holdings of less than an acre, we decided that the best way to approach this challenge would be to create a large network of agricultural experts with rich knowledge and deep experience of Indian agriculture and pair them with Data Science and Machine Learning experts from around the world to work on projects and products that are innovative and deliver value at the individual farm level.
Since its inception in 2018, SBSF Consultancy has been working with seed companies, FPOs, FPCs, Universities and other government and non-government agencies. Listing out the value proposition and ways in which we partner with our clients and stakeholders have included:
1. Preparation of bankable and investment ready projects (DPR), technical guidance, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, etc. for FPOs, FPCs, Government/ Non-Government institutions and Private companies. Focusing on innovative solutions for utilization of barren/ marginal lands by introducing high value crops of economic importance/industrial uses, we recently successfully concluded an assignment for NABARD/NABCONS in establishing Olive plantation on non-agricultural marginal lands in Purulia District of West Bengal.
2. Provide technical backstopping to Farmer Producer Organization/Farmer Producer Company (FPO/FPC) by fine tuning Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to improve yields, quality of produce, primary value addition, storage and finally establish market linkages.
3. Guide complete value chain for the Private Companies/Corporates dealing with agricultural commodities on quality procurement used for value addition and product diversification
4. Assist Agri-Export Companies in private sector by addressing sanitary-phytosanitary issues meeting country-specific regulatory requirements and avoiding import alerts mostly in case of Groundnut, Basmati Rice and range of Spices.
5. Monitor high-quality seed production, both for hybrids and open pollinated for Private Seed Companies as well as National Level Agencies for seed production and supply
6. Help in filing application for intellectual property rights for new varieties, hybrids/parental lines; patenting of new products/formulation; R&D Registration, among others
7. Supervise/audit organic crop production in agri-horticultural systems, including medicinal plants, and guide the development, implementation and practicing of traceability systems
Besides these service offerings, through SBSF Consultancy, our focus lies in capturing and building on siloed data, through digitalisation in agriculture, to bring it to a level where advanced ML (Machine Learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) can be applied to seek novel and innovative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges around food security, health and wellbeing in the face of drastic climate changes.
While food security through increased food availability (often mistakenly correlated with “just” higher yields) is critical in ensuring that every person has at least two meals per day, it should not be misconstrued with access to potentially toxic food grown with excessive and indiscriminate use of inputs (like chemical feritlizers, insecticides and pesticides), in hazardous soils and irrigated with contaminated water containing high levels of toxins (like arsenic, cadmium, selenium, etc.), and handled and stored under dangerous conditions (resulting in microbial growth like aflatoxin, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, etc.).
By working with the whole value chain in agriculture, we are acutely aware of existing technological products and solutions, and how they can be innovated, adapted and deployed to create maximum impact leading to better outcomes at large scales.
For example, our recent attempts to tackle the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) infestation in maize and other economically important crops like rice, sorghum, sugarcane, cotton, among others using a data science based approach led to the most detailed publication to enhance our understanding of this voracious, ineradicable pest (from the Americas). We have successfully combined the FAO FAMEWS dataset (outbreaks) with FLDAS (weather) and HWSD (soils). The 3 datasets were merged based on the geo-coordinates of the crop fields in FAMEWS. We used Extreme Gradient Boosting (a Machine Learning algorithm) and the results are available at https://towardsdatascience.com/critical-factors-contributing-to-the-spread-of-fall-armyworms-from-a-data-science-perspective-a1fec38cff32.
Using the expertise developed on Fall Armyworms so far, we intend to conduct very detailed and focused surveys aimed at creating an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based alerting system in real time by leveraging agricultural domain knowledge, data science and machine learning. Should you wish to know more about the network members (who are the ambassadors fighting to usher in a new era in Indian Agriculture) and our activities, please visit https://sbsf-consultancy.com/
Dr Mukti Sadhan Basu
Dr Mukti Sadhan Basu is a former director of the National Research Centre for Groundnut, Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He was also International Consultant on Aflatoxin Management, UNIDO and worked in Africa in that capacity. Presently he is Managing Director of SBSF Consultancy.