Agriculture continues to be one of the most essential industries to America’s economy. However, aspects such as climate change and population growth pose severe problems in the industries ability to produce enough crops for everyone.
This has caused business leaders to seek new, innovative approaches in order to improve the yield of their crops. One of the more prominent solutions now being implemented is AI or Artificial intelligence. Here’s how the industry is using this trending technology.
New Tech for a New Age
The latest technology being used in artificial intelligence agriculture falls into four categories:
- Agricultural robots
- Crop and soil monitoring
- Predictive analysis
- Neural sensor farming
- Animal tracking
Each of these unique advancements has their advantages over the issues farmers face today. Understanding the benefits they bring to the table could be the next big thing in agriculture. Looking deeper into each category, it’s incredible to see what new technology might be capable of.
Agricultural Robotics: Weeds
The use of robotics is something found in nearly every industry these days, and agriculture is no exception. Artificial intelligence agriculture aims to help farmers gain control over the weeds that threaten to destroy their crops, which becomes a more prominent problem as weeds grow resistant to the herbicides of yesteryear.
The benefit of automation allows farmers to spend less time worrying about removing these weeds and more time focusing on the harvest. The latest robots use computerized vision to monitor the growth of weeds and spray them with modern pesticides.
The precision displayed by these robots helps to eliminate up to 80% of chemical waste, hitting their weed adversary targets every time with a concentrated spray. Working on their own via a complicated AI system, they make incredibly valuable farmhands.
Agricultural Robotics: Harvesting
Automated robots can do more than just eliminate weeds, as seen by their ability to help out in the labor force. Come harvest time, a lack of labor can lead to millions of dollars in revenue loss. That’s where harvesting robots come in.
Strawberry farmers in Florida are already acquiring the help of these robots to pick and pack their crops during peak season. Not only does this allow them to sell more crops but it significantly cuts down on labor costs, which create an estimated 40% of annual farm costs.
Harvester robots work together, one moving across the field carrying others that pick the crop, and instinctively know where to move based on AI technology. They’re not unlike a Roomba in their ability to navigate an area, but the ability for these separate units to communicate and work efficiently with one another is a technological marvel.
Crop and Soil: Health
Clearing forests to make space for farmland and the average degradation of soil quality significantly impact both the quality of crops produced and crop sales, negatively impacting the economy. Up until now, there has been no way to successfully combat this natural phenomenon.
With the help of AI technologies, specifically deep learning applications, farmers should be able to detect potential nutrient deficiencies in the soil. The system makes use of algorithms combined with image recognition that recognize the changes in plants present when there are defects in the soil, pests ruining the crop, or plant-based diseases spreading through the field.
Farmers would only have to take a picture with a smartphone, then upload the image to an app. Based on the problem present, farmers are then given soil restoration techniques and other solutions to help make each harvest the best.
To date, these artificial intelligence agriculture systems have an estimated accuracy rate of 95%. However, there are no specific case studies available yet. While further studies are required to fully understand whether their benefit is worth the cost, they show immense promise.
Crops and Soil: Analysis
The agricultural industry is no stranger to drones, but AI is changing the scope of their abilities in crop analysis. Farmers now have the ability to pre-program their drone’s flight pattern in order for it to scan crops via computer vision technology.
The images can then be recorded for later analysis through a USB transfer. Information is uploaded to a cloud platform where algorithms are used to analyze the crop data found on the images. The software used in the cloud recognizes any molds. bacteria, or other health issues a farmer’s crops may be facing.
Able to scan an average of 50 acres in less than 30 minutes, this technology gives farmers crucial insights into what their future yield might be as well as what steps they can take to improve the health of their crops.
Predictive Analysis: Satellites
Satellite imaging has dozens of uses, but the agricultural industry is now relying on this technology to better predict the weather and analyze the sustainability of their crops. Machine learning algorithms found in AI technology are already being implemented in daily weather prediction for news stations, but these systems are becoming accurate enough to inform farmers of future problems early on.
Farmers can now view predicted:
- Wind speeds
- Solar radiation
At the same time, satellite imaging is also being used to analyze the health of crops and track the spread of plant-based diseases. Farmers utilizing this technology can view precisely where fertilizer may be needed, or which parts of their field are being attacked by pests right on their mobile devices.
Satellite imaging stands to save the agricultural industry hundreds of thousands of dollars in pesticide and fertilizer use each year. While this technology is still brand new and hardly implemented, it holds the potential for incredible benefits to the economy.
Neural Sensors: Insect Control
Neural sensor farming is something to look forward to in the coming years, but could drastically change the impact pests, and diseases have on the agricultural industry. A neural implant is placed within the brain to track behavioral patterns or even change them.
Currently, these neural sensors are used for medical and animal research, but new studies on the behavior of insects show promise in controlling some of their behaviors for the better. This could be implemented in one of two ways.
The first would involve implanting these sensors on known pests to deter their behavior, leading them away from areas where they could damage crops. Since neural sensors are often operated by radio frequency, having just a few pests change course with the flick of a switch might be able to stop a swarm from heading to a field of crops.
The second option would be to utilize these sensors on a pest’s predators. This would allow farmers to thwart an onset of plant-killing pests by changing the behavior of predators to swarm to the location of the outbreak.
It is important to note that both of these solutions are still theoretical. The military is currently testing the use of neural sensors on different insects and sharks for the purpose of surveying potentially dangerous areas, which shows potential for a wide variety of applications.
This concept has been explored in a game known as WARFRAME, where players can control swarms of insects. A quick Google search for “Where to farm neural sensors?” reveals the game’s mechanics which, although just a game, portrays a genuine near-future application for these kinds of devices.
Animal Tracking: “Smart Cows”
The last piece of artificial intelligence agriculture comes in the form of facial recognition; the same technology Snapchat uses to create its filters. Up until now, farmers have relied on physical tracking devices to keep track of their livestock. Facial recognition stands to eliminate this process altogether.
With a single device, farmers will be able to not only keep track of their cattle but:
- Monitor herd behavior
- Keep track of feeding habits
- Detect and treat health issues early on
Aside from saving thousands on the cost of physical trackers, facial recognition devices potentially hold more significant value to farmers with the above benefits. Livestock can be kept healthier while the risk of run-off herds is slowly eliminated.
Looking to the Future
Artificial intelligence agriculture is not just an emerging trend, but one that stands to reshape the future of America’s farming industries as we know it. With the help of AI technology, a larger number of crops can be produced each year to keep up with the demand of a growing populous.
Whether it is in the form of facial recognition, drones, or neural sensors, farmers will soon have the tools they need to face today’s growing concerns in the industry. Through monitoring the health of crops and fighting off pests, the economy only stands to benefit from increased yields at harvesting times.
As for what else the future may bring, no one knows for sure. The implementation of these technologies is relatively new, and further testing is required to ensure their success rates. However, it’s hard to deny how beneficial the use of artificial intelligence can be for this vital industry.