Visakhapatnam: The Andhra Pradesh government and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation (BMGF) will form a partnership to implement a “digital innovation programme" for farmers in the state.

The project was announced at the three-day AP Agtech summit 2017 which was inaugurated by AP chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. The chief minister said the goal was to promote inclusive growth and happiness for farmers.

“Sixty-two percent of the state is dependent on agriculture, which is growing at 10% (per year)," Naidu said while addressing delegates at the summit in Vishakhapatnam on Wednesday.

He said the Andhra government had achieved an overall growth rate of 11.6% last year and that the aim was to reach 15% or more.

“I made Hyderabad a knowledge hub and created Cyberabad (Hi-tech city). Even back then Bill Gates had come to Hyderabad. It was the first centre (Microsoft had) after Seattle," Naidu stated. He said his government had completed the Pattiseema lift irrigation project, a river inter-linking project connecting the Godavari and Krishna rivers, thereby providing irrigation water to lakhs of farm lands in AP.

Vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, chief guest at the event, praised the Pattiseema project and said all states should take up inter-linking of rivers. “We have a live example in front of us. We must go for inter-connectivity of rivers," he said.

Naidu, who said interest rates should be brought down to help farmers, also praised last year’s demonetisation move by the centre. “All the cash kept in bathrooms and rooms has returned to banks. Who is the owner of all that money is being known now," stated Venkaiah Naidu.

He said farmers in the country want connectivity and are looking out for technological advancements. “Information must be made available for all of them at their doorstep." The vice-president said there was a tendency among farmers to opt for crops based on previous year’s prices and that there was need for a “behavioural change" and for farmers to go for planned farming.

The AP chief minister also praised Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who will attend the valedictory session of the summit, for his philanthropy. “Only a few people spend their money in a meaningful way," Naidu said. He said AP was poised to become a horticulture hub in India, as the state is concentrating on production of fruits and vegetables.

Naidu also said that the state government was monitoring the agricultural sector on a real-time basis and using Microsoft’s technology to monitor soil health in AP. “One more area we are concentrating (on) is organic farming. So far we have formed 131 clusters and our mission is to create 5 lakh natural farmers," he added.

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