The Earth is losing forests at an alarming rate. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 420 million hectares of forest have been lost to agricultural use (largely cattle ranching, soya bean and oil palm farming) since 1990. Between 2015 and 2020, some 10 million hectares were destroyed each year. The Amazon rainforest, for example, lost an area the size of Yellowstone (3,769 square miles) in 2019, and saw deforestation rates spike 30 percent to their highest point in a decade. What's more, Climate change-induced wildfires, as we've seen recently in Australia and in California, have been especially destructive.
When we think about agriculture, we tend to think about old-school farming. But although many of us might think that the agricultural community is behind the curve when it comes to implementing new technologies, there is lots of evidence that farmers are actually moving quite quickly to modernize almost everything about the farming process -- they're using artificial intelligence in new and amazing ways to bring the process of food cultivation into the future. High-tech agriculture starts at the very second that the seed is first placed in the ground. Experts in the field are familiar with "variable rate planting equipment" that does more than just planting a seed down into the dirt somewhere. As you'll see later in this article, all sorts of artificial intelligence work is being done behind the scenes on predictions -- where a seed will grow best, what soil conditions are likely to be, etc.
Salah Sukkarieh is Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Sydney, and Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. He has worked on autonomous systems for ports, mines, aerospace, and, most recently, agriculture. He recalls that when he started working on drone technology there were not many aerospace companies in Australia working on drones, and those that were were not interested in drones for agriculture or the environment as the business case didn't stack up financially. Australia's size and the remoteness of many rural areas have also been deterrents. There is strong interest from the agriculture industry in the use of robotics and automation to support farmers, and he is surprised by the number of students who are interested in working on these projects.
The change in Indian agriculture began with the Green Revolution, which was trailed by accomplishments of large achievements: Blue revolution, white revolution, yellow and Bio-Technology revolutions. In India, agriculture is the core sector for food security, nutritional security, and sustainable development & for poverty alleviation. Around 64% of the total labor force is occupied with horticulture or agribusiness based businesses. After independence, there has been noteworthy development in Indian agriculture with the grain production ascending to 273.83 million tons this year. All things considered, there are enormous challenges to be analyzed to enhance the agricultural growth in India.
Japan's farming market is possibly undergoing its twilight years with a significantly greying community, and that's why smart, autonomous tractors being developed by machine maker Kubota Tractor Corporation could hold commercial appeal. According to Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, the number of Japanese engaged primarily in farming dropped to 1.7 million in 2014 from 1.86 million in 2011. About 515,000 farmers were 75 years or older in 2014. By comparison, only 83,000 were 39 years old or younger -- and that number was down by 7,000 from just three years earlier, reports USA Today. To make matters more pressing, Japan's population is shrinking by a quarter of a million people a year, and the number of births in 2014 was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1899, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The Australian government has gone to market seeking for help to design, develop, and roll out an online digital tool that farmers can use to assess the risk and impact caused by climate change. According to the request for tender (RFT), the drought resilience self-assessment tool (DR SAT) would be used to provide data and online drought resilience assessment capability to give farmers insight to help improve their decision-making capabilities, help them better understand and manage risk and uncertainty, as well as help identify options to improve their business resilience and drought preparedness. Additionally, the capability's architecture, when delivered, is expected to be designed for the potential of a national rollout, as well facilitate individual data entry, analysis, and feature data visualisation and user dashboards, the tender said. The initial phase of work would involve delivering a proof of concept through four pilots across the country. The DR SAT would be delivered as part of the federal government's AU$5 billion Future Drought Fund managed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Japanese fish industries are starting to use artificial intelligence to select high-quality fish at markets and find good fishing grounds, areas where they have traditionally relied largely on experience and intuition. AI tools are drawing attention because they can easily replicate proficient skills, including those needed to evaluate tuna quality and determine good spots to catch saury. When judging the quality of fish, buyers look at how fresh and firm the meat is and how much fat it puts on. "You need over 10 years of experience" to acquire an excellent eye, a fish market worker said. Advertising giant Dentsu Inc. and others jointly developed and put into practical use a smartphone app that enables users to easily pick out delicious tuna.
It's therefore little wonder that we're witnessing changes to the industry. These include moving fish farms into deeper waters – less accessible locations that will require technology to manage. Also, as aquaculture becomes more competitive, it's not just about practicing sustainability, it's about being able to prove it.
Alphabet's X lab for emerging technologies "moonshot factory", has unveiled yet another initiative that might this time come to improve the future content of our plates. The research company - formerly Google X - has developed Project Mineral an attempt to tackle the challenges that the food industry is bracing for in the near-term – namely, how to improve agriculture's productivity in the face of increasing demand and weaker crops. Using a wheel-mounted buggy fitted with a cocktail of cameras, machine perception tools and AI, the X team is roaming fields to provide growers with high-quality and data-based information about their crops. Armed with clearer insights, farmers can in turn make decisions based on a better understanding of their plants' behavior. Announcing Project Mineral in a blog post, Elliott Grant, who leads the project, explained that he has spent the past few years talking to farmers across the world to assess their needs.
Ending hunger is one of the top priorities of the United Nations this decade. Yet the world appears to be backsliding, with an uptick of 60 million people experiencing hunger in the last five years to an estimated 690 million worldwide. To help turn this trend around, a team of 70 researchers published a landmark series of eight studies in Nature Food, Nature Plants, and Nature Sustainability on Monday. The scientists turned to machine learning to comb 500,000 studies and white papers chronicling the world's food system. The results show that there are routes to address world hunger this decade, but also that there are also huge gaps in knowledge we need to fill to ensure those routes are equitable and don't destroy the biosphere.