IRRI is leveraging AI to secure food and nutrition security for current and future generations

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Leading technology giants like Amazon and Google are applauding and supporting the research institute’s innovative uses of artificial intelligence to accelerate the development of high-yielding, nutrition-rich, and climate-resilient rice crops, and to help farmers all over the world enhance their productivity and livelihoods.

During his keynote at the AWS re: Invent 2023 conference a few weeks ago, Amazon’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Werner Vogels underscored how AI is not just the technology of the future, but is today being used by companies and organizations to solve problems and make the world better.

One of the examples he mentioned was the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Dr. Vogels shared that IRRI is the steward of the International Rice Genebank , the world’s largest repository of rice genetic diversity, and the first CGIAR genebank to receive perpetual funding through the Crop Trust Endowment Fund . Through this foundational genebank, scientists are able to preserve genetic material for study, replace varieties lost to climate change or calamities, and breed new cultivars with beneficial traits like higher yields and nutrition.

The genebank adds and replenishes tens of thousands of seeds a year, but strict quality standards require that seeds have to be screened and cataloged individually by hand. This is a slow and laborious process that has created a massive backlog in seeds, leading to only around 5% of total genebank resources being fully utilized for breeding.

IRRI’s innovation was to combine machine learning and computer vision, both fields of AI, with high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to automate part of the process. By training AI to visually recognize the characteristics of rice seeds, such as size, shape, color, and texture, with humans performing final quality assurance, speed and efficiency are dramatically improved. Dr….

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