The United Nations reports that about 1/3 of the food produced globally each year is lost or wasted, and I'd reckon that number is not too surprising. Those of us in the United States see evidence of waste each time we go out to eat or do a weekly purge of jam-packed refrigerators. Outside the waste, however, there's a greater problem many of us don't realize. Just as the amount of food wasted globally is skyrocketing, the global demand for food is, ironically, set to rise. How will we manage to feed and sustain 9 billion humans estimated to populate planet earth by 2050?
It is one of the marvels of human innovation but artificial intelligence (AI) offers tough competition for us. The days of speculating rain and sunshine may soon fade with artificial intelligence's capability to predict right conditions with precision to an extent. It comprises one of the basic aspects of precision agriculture (PA) promoted even by the government to boost productivity and in turn, farmers' income. AI-based sowing advisories lead to 30 per cent higher yields as Microsoft, in collaboration with ICRISAT, developed an AI Sowing App powered by Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI. The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow without them installing any sensors in their fields or any additional cost; all they need is a phone capable of receiving text messages.
It's estimated that 100 percent of citrus trees over three-years-old in the state of Florida have an incurable, deadly disease. They will wither and die within the next few years. Thankfully, we have a new ally in the fight to save the citrus industry: artificial intelligence. While scientists race to create disease-resistant trees, politicians and activists argue over where we should draw the line with pesticide use. The net result of these efforts may yield optimism for the future, but it shows little hope for farmers today.
It is one of the marvels of human innovation but artificial intelligence (AI) offers tough competition to us. The days of speculating rain and sunshine may soon fade with artificial intelligence's capability to predict right conditions with precision to an extent. It comprises one of the basic aspects of precision agriculture (PA) promoted even by the government to boost productivity and in turn, farmers' income. AI-based sowing advisories lead to 30% higher yields as Microsoft, in collaboration with ICRISAT, developed an AI Sowing App powered by Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI. The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow without them installing any sensors in their fields or any additional cost; all they need is a phone capable of receiving text messages.
Agricultural businesses usually have a massive number of trackable assets (plants, livestock, and machinery), often operate in wide geographic areas in which these assets are located, and are subject to operational factors often beyond their control, such as the amount of sunlight or rainfall they receive, or temperature fluctuations. As such, agriculture is ripe for the adoption of new technologies to help monitor and manage assets on a granular level, and everything from Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, robots, and drones are being used by farms around the globe. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture notes that the farms of today are avid users of agriculture technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial imaging, and GPS technology, which are more precise and efficient than humans alone, and allow for safer, more efficient, and more profitable operations. One example of how technology enables new farming techniques is the use of robotic harvesting on indoor farms, which today account for a tiny fraction of the 900 million acres of traditional farmland in the U.S. However, these indoor farms are well suited to the growth of vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, and other leafy greens, are highly sustainable, generally feature an average yield per acre more than 10 times higher than that of outdoor farms, and represent a continuation of the agricultural sector's trend toward incorporating precision agriculture techniques to improve yields and become more sustainable.
Washington State University scientist Manoj Karkee recognized by Connected World magazine for his work with agriculture technology. Washington State University (WSU) scientist Manoj Karkee was recently named a 2019 Pioneer for his work in artificial intelligence and internet of things by Connected World magazine. Among his projects, Karkee is building apple-picking robots, smart irrigation systems for grapes and fruit trees, flying drones to deter birds from fruit crops, and machines to bundle red raspberries. Just as important as building machines, he develops artificial intelligence for field agriculture, creating the software that tells agricultural robots how to do their work. He was one of 11 scientists in the U.S. and Canada to receive the recognition from the online journal.
A desert smoke tree is illuminated by half-moon light in the Trilobite Wilderness region of Mojave Trails National Monument near Essex, California. If you know the animals in your neighborhood but not the plants, you're not alone. Scientists have documented nearly 400,000 plant species and expect to identify many more. But unlike well-known endangered animals, such as elephants, tigers, and parrots, we don't currently understand the conservation status of more than 90 percent of the world's plant species. Plant growth and communities drive the ecosystems, food chains, and agriculture on every continent, yet we don't know the conditions that cause them to thrive or disappear.
This article was originally published as a TechRepublic cover story. Marcus Hall was nine years old when he first drove a tractor on his family's sprawling Iowa farm, eschewing Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars for long rides on heavy machinery. Growing up on a multigenerational family farm is common in an agricultural state like Iowa, where nearly 27 million acres are devoted to cropland--out of the 35 million acres that make up the state. Hall grew up with all the trappings of a future farmer, but a penchant for technology led him down a more experimental path--to the test farm of ag equipment giant John Deere. As manager of the test farm, Hall gets to run field trials of John Deere's high-tech farm equipment before it goes to market. "I just enjoy being out on the tractor," says Hall. "Plus, it's fun being part of this type of technology and the leading edge of what's out there." Download this article as a PDF (free registration required). It's a warm, breezy day in late May 2018, when we meet up with Hall at John Deere's test facility in Bondurant, IA. The farm sits on an unassuming patch of land framed by two-lane roads.
Farm Journal held it's second annual AgTech conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Companies and farmers from across the country were on hand to see the latest, greatest and newest ideas and innovations coming to a farm near you. These ideas, concepts and companies dotting the expo hall as participants at each booth stand ready to give a pitch. "Our main goal is to make it as easy as possible for the farmer to use fewer inputs and save money," said Emily Payne the Content Director for a company called Teralytic. The wireless remote soil probes can sense NPK and several other things in real time.
It used to be that artificial intelligence was limited to the realms of science fiction and movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Terminator's Skynet. Today, artificial intelligence is real -- think Alexa or Google Home -- and tools and applications putting it to use are emerging at a rapid clip in many fields, including agriculture and food. Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term for machine learning but its concepts are used in related fields, including robotics and natural language processing. It certainly figured prominently at this year's Global Food Innovation Summit in Italy, which I was able to attend with the support of a bursary from the Canadian Farm Writers' Federation professional development fund. "It will take resources to tackle problems we face like climate change, food security and hunger," said Zachary Fritze, CEO and co-founder of ag tech analytics startup Cultovo, during a presentation at the conference.