Published on May 9th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
AI, Robotics and the High-Tech Farm of the Future
The world is facing some enormous problems. But, as Eric Jensen at iotforall.com reports, technology is taking global issues like world hunger and climate change head on. Growers and farmers are figuring out how to grow more food in less time with a reduced carbon footprint. There are many wins here that are necessary for us to survive as a planet and a people.
With increasing mouths to feed and environmental changes, there is a need for a revolution in the farming industry. AI offers data-driven solutions to boost productivity and efficiency.
Illustration: © IoT For All
In farming, AI is usually short for “artificial insemination.” But a different kind of AI,artificial intelligence, is showing great promise in solving some of agriculture’s most significant challenges, from the need to increase productivity and profits to overcoming labor shortages to protecting the environment.
Of all the industries AI is transforming, it’s safe to say none have a greater human impact than farming. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the global population is expected to rise from seven billion to nine billion by 2050, requiring a 60 percent increase in food production. However, traditional methods aren’t enough to deal with this increase. Farmers must find ways to do more with less.
Constraints and Shortages Lead to Innovation
And they must accomplish this despite pressures such as labor shortages, especially during busy seasonal periods, and the fact that crop revenues and yields have remained flat for 25 years while production costs keep going up.
On top of all that, at a time when the planet is under threat from climate change, farming is a huge consumer of energy and water and a major source of carbon dioxide emissions and soil erosion.
AI-driven technology, built on algorithms that can analyze data and learn, adjust and improve over time without human intervention are starting to have a dramatic effect on an industry that has seen only incremental improvements over the last century, especially in the case of smaller farms, and is in dire need of more sustainable models.
For example, AI can help smaller farms be more profitable by scrutinizing plant data to create a “profit map” that tells farmers the most efficient ways to use a field to maximize profit and yield. Each step, from knowing when to plant, to all aspects of crop care, to knowing when to harvest can be automated.
The precision enabled by AI is an enormous boon to ecologically harmonious and sustainable farming. Farmers can know with an increased level of certainty what is the best crop for a particular area of the field and what to leave fallow or put to other uses, such as beetle banks. Different crops could be planted alongside each other in the same field and harvested at different times.
Companies Take on AI in Farming
An ecosystem of startups is cropping up around the world to offer AI-powered tools to farms, such as the Small Robot Company of Britain which believes robots are more precise and environmentally friendly than traditional tractor-based farming; Bowery Farming, which uses robotics to cultivate crops indoors and has raised $90 million from investors and CiBO Technologies, which uses data analytics, statistical modeling and AI to simulate agricultural conditions under different variables and last year raised $30 million in its Series B round of funding.