2020 Winner

“Hola Talia”
Boosting extension service through AI

Costa Rica

In many places, farmers have limited access to accurate agricultural information. This constrains their livelihoods from reaching full potential and increases susceptibility to diseases, pests, and climatic shocks.

Public agricultural extension services provide advice to farmers through farm visits and telephone calls, but often, limited resources mean not all farmers can be reached. Many extension agents need to serve too many farmers, exceeding their capacities, which particularly disfavors marginalized, often remote and women-led households. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected extension services in many regions, with farm visits totally halted and insufficient human resources to properly support farmers by telephone calls.

Automated digital technologies can enhance advisory services, but many farmers prefer to speak to extension agents.

The project aims to create TALIA (Tu agrónoma/o lista/o con inteligencia artificial), the first agricultural advisory hotline operated entirely by state-of-the art AI. Through a pilot in Costa Rica, using unstructured and structured data from research and extension partners – including farmer-extensionist conversations – we will train an established natural language processing technology, IBM Watson, to become a knowledgeable, always-available, and talkative AI-driven agricultural extension agent that helps farmers thrive.

The Inspire Challenge is an initiative to challenge partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale. We look for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.

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