Ancient information combined with Artificial Intelligence aimed at creating wealth and well-being
The “tea, spices and wellness” project led by Ioncure Tech Pvt Ltd, aims to connect herb cultivators in remote tribal areas with urban consumers, building a sustainable supply chain using AI
India has a huge wealth of herbs that can be used for medicinal purposes. Apart from that, there is also a huge treasure in the form of over 1,00,000 manuscripts in various Indian languages and scripts discussing Yoga and meditation, Indian traditional medicine systems, health and wellness philosophy and a lot more. These manuscripts are made on palm leaves, birch bark, parchment etc. which are precious and brittle. The National Manuscripts Mission (NaMaMi) aims to document the wealth of information in manuscripts. However, physical reading of rare manuscripts by experts, and transcribing them to digital format is time-consuming and slow.
This ancient wealth can be unlocked using modern technology. The “tea, spices and wellness” project led by Ioncure Tech Pvt Ltd, founded by Dr Sukant Khurana, with Raamesh Gowri Raghavan, Dr Abhijit Banerjee and Ashish Singh as collaborators, is aiming to use the power of robotics, internet of things, artificial intelligence and more for this. The project aims to connect herb cultivators in remote tribal areas with urban consumers, building a sustainable supply chain with fair wages and affordable prices.
Optical character recognition (OCR) allows the pages of the manuscript to be converted to digital text. While this has been successful for European scripts, it is still a challenge for Indian scripts. However, progress is being made; Ioncure also has an excellent team of IT specialists as well as an epigraphist-manuscriptologist on board for this process. Further, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning can enable translation of ancient languages such as Classical Tamil, Sanskrit and Pali into modern languages such as Hindi and English. This makes the ancient information unlocked for modern scientists.
The creation of databases based on these texts can then be the next step. Powerful data science tools like Python can then be used to scrape data on individual herbs. Information gleaned from the internet and modern scholarly publications can also be scrapped and merged with the manuscript information, to create dossiers on every herb.
Ioncure also has the talent pool for data cleaning, collating, and summarization, so that the information is reliable. Anomalies can be detected without personal intervention and flagged. Each dossier will contain information on the uses of the herb, extracting useful molecules (and combinations), as well as growth conditions such as climate, soil and water requirements. Meta-analysis and statistical treatment can then be done to figure out the economically and medically most promising candidates for field trials.
The final step is human. Ioncure’s collaboration with anthropologists and agricultural scientists aims to raise awareness among tribes and other marginalized social sections to cultivate these herbs on a sustainable yet scalable basis. For this, advances in tissue culture, micro-greens and chromosome engineering will be deployed. The internet of things and mobile apps we are developing will help tribal cultivators find the best growing conditions, achieve organic certification and find the best market prices as well. We are developing robotics, especially autonomous drones, to assist with non-chemical pest control and keeping away crop-damaging animals such as rodents and boars. These technologies have the advantage of being deployable in hazardous places as well for bio-remediation, and finally bringing them back under the category of arable land.
(Ashish Singh is a sociologist and political scientist.)