A new crop of startups are developing AI systems to tackle challenges from climate change to ... [ ] COVID-19. Artificial Intelligence is transforming the world at a rapid and accelerating pace, offering huge potential, but also posing social and economic challenges. Human beings are naturally fearful of machines – this is a constant. Technological advancements tend to outpace cultural shifts. It has taken the shock of a global pandemic to accelerate the uptake of many technologies that have been around for at least a decade.
A burst of technology in the 1960s--the Green Revolution--raised agricultural output significantly across developing economies. Since then, rising incomes have boosted protein consumption worldwide, and elevated new challenges: greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture are increasing (more than a fifth of all emissions worldwide), while a host of practices, from waste to overfishing, threaten the sustainability of food supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought these concerns to the fore: the disease has disrupted supply chains and demand, perversely increasing the amount of food waste in farms and fields while threatening food security for many. As agriculture gradually regains its footing, participants and stakeholders should be casting an eye ahead, to safeguarding food supplies against the potentially greater and more disruptive effects of climate change. Once again, innovation and advanced technologies could make a powerful contribution to secure and sustainable food production. For example, digital and biotechnologies could improve the health of ruminant livestock, requiring fewer methane-producing animals to meet the world's protein needs. Genetic technologies could play a supporting role by enabling the breeding of animals that produce less methane. Meanwhile, AI and sensors could help food processors sort better and slash waste, and other smart technologies could identify inedible by-products for reprocessing. Data and advanced analytics also could help authorities better monitor and manage the seas to limit overfishing--while enabling boat crews to target and find fish with less effort and waste.
On fields across the world, phones, tablets, drones, and other technologies are changing how food is grown. Through these devices, artificial intelligence (AI)--technology able to perform tasks that require human intelligence--may help farmers use the techniques they already know and trust on a bigger scale. And Big Data--data sets that reveal telling patterns about growth, yield, weather, and more--may help farmers make better decisions before crises strike. According to the report Refresh: Food Tech, From Soil to Supper released in 2018, AI and Big Data may help produce more food, use less water, limit resource consumption, redirect food waste, and lower food prices--all while improving the lives and incomes of farmers and food producers. "Recent advances have the potential for big breakthroughs in the ways we grow, store, transport, distribute, and consume food," says the Refresh Report.
How does artificial intelligence-powered precision farming affect food sustainability? This is the question we asked our panel of experts. "Precision farming" is a bit of a buzz phrase; it is often used, but rarely defined. Generally, it means the widespread adoption of new technologies to accurately monitor and control agricultural activity. But which technologies are adopted and which consequences result?
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. 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.