FoA 266: Microsoft Wants to Democratize Data-Driven Agriculture

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Ranveer Chandra: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/people/ranveer/

Overview of Azure FarmBeats: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/industry/agriculture/overview-azure-farmbeats

FarmBeats: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/bill-gates-features-farmbeats-on-gatesnotes/

Microsoft has been making waves in the agtech industry with its FarmBeats project and Azure cloud computing service. That effort can be traced back to 2015 when today’s guest, Ranveer Chandra, wrote a memo which led to him starting and running the FarmBeats project. FarmBeats for those who do not know, provides a way to collect on-farm data and track that data using cloud computing models. It’s not a product that farmers buy, but it’s a platform that agtech companies build upon. In fact, previous guests of this show are customers of Microsoft to power their technology.

Ranveer is the Chief Scientist of Microsoft Azure Global, and Partner Researcher at Microsoft Research. He started the FarmBeats project at Microsoft in 2015, and has been leading it since then. He is also leading the battery research project, and the white space networking project at Microsoft Research. That is a project where he provided rural connectivity using unused TV channels. He was invited to the USDA to present his work on FarmBeats, and this work was featured by Bill Gates in GatesNotes, and was selected by Satya Nadella as one of 10 projects that inspired him in 2017. Ranveer has published more than 80 papers, and filed over 100 patents, more than 85 of which have been granted by the USPTO.

Both FarmBeats and the TV white spaces projects started with memos, and as you’ll hear, Ranveer wrote his 2020 memo on sustainability. So we also get into the discussion about sustainability metrics and Microsoft’s big open source carbon purchase from a few months ago.

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