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Microsoft launches tech project to tackle food security in South Africa

Microsoft recently launched agriculture research platform FarmBeats, aiming at making the benefits of artificial intelligence available to farmers. FarmBeats tracks soil temperature and moisture levels with the use of solar-based cloud computing models, taking the guess-work out of farming.

By 2050 there will be 9.5bn people on the planet, yet the size of arable land is fixed, Mark Ihimoyan, director of business development at Microsoft in the Middle East and Africa, told Fin24 on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Africa Agri Indaba taking place in Cape Town.

"We foresee a pending food crisis. Things like climate change and global warming also make it a lot more challenging to get an effective yield from land in a sustainable manner. This indicates the need for us to grow more food on the existing land available," he explained. "At Microsoft we feel that one of the ways to make a big impact in this regard is by using technology. There is an opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to help solve food security problems."

The idea is that AI can be used to augment farmers' existing knowledge so they can make more effective decisions and obtain an increased yield so that more food can be produced in a sustainable manner and at less cost.

In SA there are already small initial projects looking into providing connectivity on farms, which can sometimes be a challenge.

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