If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help save the world's bees? That's the hope of scientists who are scrambling to reverse the dramatic declines in bee populations. Bees are in trouble, but we're not quite sure why. It could be the overuse of insecticides; air pollution; warming temperatures; the varroa destructor mite; or even interference from electromagnetic radiation. Or it could be a combination of all these factors.
Science hasn't been giving us a tremendous amount of good news these days. We've screwed up the environment so badly, it's hard to even call it an environment anymore. And that's coming back to bite (or sting) us: Bee populations, which we rely on to pollinate our crops, are plummeting. But science is also coming to the rescue, by gluing QR codes to bumblebees' backs and tracking their movements with a robotic camera. Researchers have created a system that tracks individual bees as well as the dynamics of whole colonies exposed to imidacloprid, a neurotoxin that belongs to the infamous neonicotinoid group of pesticides.
Dutch scientists have developed robot bees which could help pollinate plants without the use of insects. Researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands believe they may have solved the problem of climate change or pesticides killing off the creatures. The DelFly Nimble's wings beat at 17 times per second to power the robot at speeds over 15 miles per hour (25kph). However, they share an uncanny resemblance to robot bees that are hacked and turned into killing machines in the popular science fiction series Black Mirror. It uses off-the-shelf components, making it cheap to build, and scientists say it could be used in a host of real-world applications.
Environmental author Wendell Berry might shudder at this comparison, but farmers are like data scientists. To make decisions, they ferret out meaning from a sea of data. That data just happens to be related to environmental conditions like temperature, rainfall, salinity, nitrogen, pests, commodity prices, and other variables. What that data often shows is trouble: increasingly costly or scarce water supplies, new and more voracious pests, herbicide-resistant weeds, and extreme weather. All of this can result in lower farm yields and higher costs.
"If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in the country" M. S. Swaminathan Agriculture has evolved with mankind through centuries. Today, agriculture contributes 3.8% to the world's GDP, although the contribution of individual nations across the spectrum varies widely, between 0%-60%. Over the years, while its share in the world economy has reduced vis-à-vis manufacturing and services, the importance of agriculture hasn't. The demand for food is never ending and is projected to increase by 70% by 2050 with limited natural resources at disposal. This situation throws up unique challenges; advanced technologies may be a solution.
Japanese farmers are testing a new drone that can hover above paddy fields and perform backbreaking tasks in a fraction of the time it takes a labourer. The drone applies pesticides and fertilizer to a rice field in 15 minutes - a job that takes more than an hour by hand and requires farmers to lug around heavy tanks. Developers of the new agricultural drone say it offers high-tech relief for rural communities facing a shortage of labour as young people leave for the cities. Pictured is a farmer in Japan's Tome region trialling the new technology'Our ultimate goal is to lower rice farming costs to one-fourth of what it is now,' Hiroshi Yanagishita, President of Nileworks, the Tokyo drone start-up behind the technology, told reporters Thursday. Nile-T18 was recently tested in Japan's Tome area – a region that has supplied rice to Tokyo since the 17th century.
China is facing a number of growing pains, but one in particular has proved more taxing than most: How can China feed its rapidly growing population as the land suitable for cultivation disappears? The country's agriculture industry has long been rife with inefficiency, but now the government is doing something about it, ploughing billions into agricultural technology, or AgTech, as a means of maximising resources –and a raft of private-sector companies are following this lead…And if China, the world's biggest agricultural producer, can manage to produce more with less, they can help teach the rest of the planet how to feed itself long into the future. One of the most recent developments in the AgTech field came earlier this month, when China's answer to Amazon, Alibaba, launched the'ET Agricultural Brain' –a digital tool that…lets farmers digitally record information about their yields in order to better leverage the entire production cycle, raising efficiency and capacity. This month, Beijing launched a seven-year autonomous agriculture pilot programme in Jiangsu Province to test…unmanned combine harvesters or robotic tractors…[T]he initiative aims to turn tasks that were once done by hand or with heavy machinery – such as pesticide application or irrigation – into a seamless, automated process. Like AI-driven farming technology, automated agriculture could help…improve efficiency, raise yields, and…it will also help make these operations more sustainable.
A slew of AI weed killers are on the horizon and have the potential to disrupt the multibillion dollar pesticides business. Among them is Swiss-company ecoRobotix and its weed-killing robot. It's solar-powered and can kill weeds for 12 hours straight without an operator at the helm. EcoRobotix uses 20 times less herbicide than traditional methods that spray entire fields. Founded in 2011, ecoRobotix develops autonomous weeding robots, which help farmers to produce healthier food with a more efficient and sustainable use of herbicides.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a Roomba-like robot that can tend to crops autonomously. At Carnegie Mellon, they're building a suite of A.I. and drones to take on some of agriculture's most demanding tasks. And just last year, a team of automated machines farmed an acre and a half of barley, from planting to harvesting, without a single human setting foot on the field. A Swiss company called ecoRobotix recently unveiled its contribution to automated agriculture -- a robotic weed-killing machine. The four-wheeled robot doesn't look like much more than a mobile table top, but Reuters reports that the unassuming machine may reshape the way we approach agriculture.