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Google Backs Indian NGO Using AI To Control Pests, Reduce Agricultural Waste

Google Backs Indian NGO Using AI To Control Pests, Reduce Agricultural Waste

A total of 20 companies have been selected by Google globally

Wadhwani AI uses artificial intelligence for pest control in farming

A total grant of $25 Mn will be divided among the selected startups

At Google’s annual I/O conference last night (May 7), the search giant picked an Indian not-for-profit organisation, Wadhwani AI, along with 19 other startups from all over the world under a programme which focusses on using AI technology for social good.

Wadhwani AI uses artificial intelligence in the agricultural sector to prevent crop losses.

The company will receive a $2 Mn grant from and is a part of Google’s AI for Social Good programme. Google AI Impact Challenge was held by Google in January 2019 and received 2,602 applications from 119 countries, Google chose these 20 startups “based on feasibility, the potential for impact, scalability and the responsible use of AI”, the search giant said in its blog.

Wadhwani AI, along with other 19 startups will also receive credit and consulting from Google Cloud and coaching by Google’s AI experts as a grantee of the Google AI Impact Challenge.

Wadhwani Institute is using image recognition to track and analyze pest control efforts, enabling timely and localized intervention to stabilize crop production and reduce pesticide usage. The efforts of the startup are aimed at cotton farmers currently.

Cofounded by Romesh Wadhwani and Sunil Wadhwani in February 2018, the startup has a partnership with the Wish Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rajesh Jain, senior director of the cotton farming project in Wadhwani AI said, “We are trying to address a use case where everybody in the world gets benefited out of it. Later we are going to be looking into education and smart cities.”

Members of the Wadhwani AI team will travel to San Francisco next week for five days joining AI experts from Google. Google’s Launchpad Accelerator will last for six months starting May. Developing their own objectives and key results, the startups will be under a timeline and have a Google expert who will mentor them and guide them through their journey.

Founders Romesh Wadhwani Sunil Wadhwani who are also bootstrapping the organisation, have committed $3 Mn each year for the next ten years. “While we benefit from the awards we receive – such as the $2 Mn Google AI Impact challenge award – we also raise specific funds for each of our projects,” said Nikhil Velpanur, senior director, partnerships, communications, AI Hub.

Jacquelline Fuller, president of said that “AI is at a nascent stage when it comes to the value it can have for the social impact sector, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work and considering where there is potential for use to do even more.”

Some of the other startups which received the grant are American University of Beirut (Lebanon); Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Colombia) and Crisis Text Line, Inc. (USA)

A recent boom of AI fueled technologies has opened up whole new avenues for companies and startups in India. Inc42 DataLabs has reported that a total investment of $13.2 Mn happened in AI from 2014 to 2018 in India. AI/ML funding contributed 18.09% of all deeptech funding which happened between 2014 to 2018. This is the kind of zest that has made India one of the top five countries globally when it comes to the number of AI-driven startups.