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The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) is unlimited and the agriculture sector is set to reap its benefits. Tech companies are launching new solutions to solve the existing issues, governments are supporting new initiatives, and investments in the development of various applications are pouring in. The scope of AI is not limited to agricultural field practices. It can be used in livestock monitoring and fish farming applications. Many countries across the world have realized the importance of AI in the agriculture sector and taking necessary steps to transform the existing agricultural practices. Governments, experts, university researchers, and entrepreneurs realized the role of AI and adopted various strategies to raise the utilization of AI for different practices.
Many universities have a vision for the utilization of AI in agriculture. The Artificial Intelligence Institute for Resilient Agriculture from Iowa State University has the vision to utilize machine learning, data science, and AI technologies for offering personalized recommendations to growers of corn and soybean. Moreover, In the next three to five years, they plan to develop tools that will help farmers in creating seeds to gain a high yield. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Agriculture invested nearly $20 million in the institute for the development of AI technology that would transform agriculture practices and food security scenarios.
Many experts in the agriculture sector have been outlining the importance of implementing AI. From Pakistan’s Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan (MNSUAM), Asif Ali, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, highlighted that the implementation of AI can improve the agriculture sector. AI can provide solutions to existing problems such as forecasting weather conditions, moisture, temperature, soil condition, speed of the wind, disease detection in crops, plant nutrition, and others. He also outlined that many developed countries such as China, the U.S., and many European countries utilized AI and achieved huge success in the agriculture sector. He gave an example regarding the application of AI in the agriculture field. A Drone camera can take pictures of the field and farmers can determine the affected or damaged areas. With the help of AI, timely and informed decisions can be taken about the treatment of those affected areas. Moreover, spray machines can be integrated with sensors to determine and eliminate harmful weeds. Farmers will apply pesticides to specific areas only, which in turn, will prove to be cost-effective and keep the environment secure from harmful chemicals.
Agriculture entrepreneur from Ghana, Richard Nunekpeku, also highlighted the importance of investments in AI technology. He opined that the investment in modern technologies such as AI should increase to help farmers in knowing soil profiles, fertilizer applications, and irrigation requirements. The insights provided by AI will simplify the processes involved in the agricultural field and increase productivity. Nearly 95 percent of agricultural practices are carried out in usual methods in Ghana. These methods include sowing, clearing, and waiting for rains. However, this is not the way forward, according to Mr. Nunekpeku. This method will not provide food security in Ghana. With investments in AI, farmers can determine various factors such as soil alkalinity, acidity, potential yield, types of seed to be used, and others. He added that when a farmer will know the soil requirements and utilize every resource accordingly, the yield will increase. AI will play a crucial role in determining the requirements of soil and help them in taking required steps.
Following are some of the trends taking place across the world:
Companies launching innovative AI-based solutions in the agriculture sector:
Various companies across the world have been launching their innovative solutions to solve the existing issues and improving overall yield in the agriculture sector. Tevel Aerobotics Technologies launched its Flying Autonomous Robot for picking up fruits from orchards. AI algorithm is utilized for assisting these robots toward ripened fruits and they pick them up. The company joined hands with an Italian-Spanish fruit harvesting platform developer Darwin for creation of integrated autonomous system for fruit harvesting.
The application of AI widens with pollination. Polly, a robotic platform developed by Arugga AI Farming, is instrumental in carrying out artificial pollination activity in tomato greenhouses. The robot travels on the tracks existing between two rows and determines the readiness of flowers for pollination. The AI algorithm is utilized for determining the readiness. This task is usually performed by bees. Moreover, this robot solves the issue of lack of labor.
Tech companies have been developing AI-based platforms for determining the farm performance across the globe. Cropin developed an AI-enabled platform that utilizes satellite imagery, ground data, and weather conditions to determine the performance of agricultural field. This model is used for predicting crop parameters such as crop health, crop detection, crop yield, irrigation needs, and other factors. The platform utilizes IoT devices, satellite imagery, machine learning algorithms, and data analysis tools for detecting crop patterns and forecasting crop performance. In addition, it offers insights into crop health and environmental conditions for enhancing the crop outcomes. These factors help farmers in making informed decisions by predicting of future scenarios.
The platform has achieved an accuracy of 85–92 percent. It generates intelligence on different layers on each pixel of agricultural field. The company also utilized the AI algorithm for monitoring local food security. The AI platform is designed for the Agri ecosystem and computed nearly 0.2 billion acres of agricultural fields from 12 countries. The company has been developing new ecosystem that will utilize the power of data to improve the Agri ecosystem.
Supportive government initiatives for development of AI platforms:
Governments have been supporting various initiatives that are based on AI and aimed at improving the agricultural sector. LG CNS joined hands with the government for a new smart farming project. This project is launched by the Agriculture Ministry of South Korea and the South Jeolla Province’s local government. The project involves the development of AI-based platform for achieving improved yield and more efficient agricultural activities than before. The objective of the project is to create an intelligent agricultural field of nearly 543,000 square-meter in Naju and nearly 355 kilometers at the south of Seoul by 2023.
The jointly developed AI-based platform will gather and analyze the data during the process of farming. The data includes soil parameters, weather conditions, crop growth, irrigation needs, damage of crops by disease, and others. Advanced technologies such as drones, sensor, and internet of things will be utilized for data collection and analysis. In addition, the digital scarecrow will be mounted on the fields to keep birds and animals away. This scarecrow will be equipped with radars, AI sensors, and speakers. The unmanned drones will be utilized for operation and carrying out maintenance activities. The firm highlighted that it will continue to utilize AI for implementing smart farming activities and expand its presence across the world in the coming years.
New AI platform for shrimp producers:
The launch of innovative AI-based solutions continues with firms from across the world. While many firms focused their solutions on the agricultural fields, some companies are focused their solutions on fish farming. Umitron, a Singapore and Japan-based technology firm focused on offering solutions for aquaculture, launched ‘Umitron Eagle.’ This solution is aimed at providing AI-based analytics for shrimp producers. Advanced AI capabilities have been utilized for tracking different biological conditions in different environments. The poor adoption of digital technologies by shrimp producers is one of the major limiting factors for the growth. Sensors can be utilized for controlling feeding and monitoring the environmental parameters. However, the existing ones are not able to provide any analytics related to real-time conditions of the shrimp.
Considering the latest limitation, the company spent a couple of years in development of AI algorithms for the real-time condition assessment of shrimps. New AI algorithms are able to gain analysis related to real-time appetite, biomass, health conditions, and others. These factors were not taken into consideration in terms of automation. The newly developed platform can help in optimizing feeding protocols and extract real-time analytics. The company also partnered with Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) for improving the operations at the production site for shrimp operators.
Application of AI to transform the agricultural sectors in various countries:
For stagnating agriculture industry, AI can present new vigor. For the agriculture-dependent country such as India, the application of AI can bring transformation in the sector. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), nearly 70% of households in the rural areas are dependent upon the agriculture. Despite the huge dependence, food security is still a major issue and the production in the agriculture sector is cereal-centric, resource-intensive, and regionally-biased. Leading technology firms and startups have been trying to transform the sector with application of AI. Aggromalin, one of the startups, helps farmers in raising their production and diversifying aquaculture and animal husbandry. The application of AI will help in monitoring IoT devices and provide necessary data to improve yield. This will help farmers in raising their income levels.
Another agritech firm based in Hyderabad Nebulaa utilizes AI for testing the quality of agricultural produce. It provides its proprietary solution MATT that uses image processing and AI for carrying out quality analysis of grains, cereals, and pulses. Chemists and researchers carry out the analysis of grains. It takes nearly 30–45 minutes to carry out a single test. MATT carries out tests rapidly and reduces the human error. In addition, it optimizes the supply chain process as farmers can test rapidly and offer the products of the highest quality. Many startups launched their AI systems for testing the post-harvest quality.
Even the Agriculture Budget presented in March 2022 in India highlighted the importance of AI and other technologies such as machine learning. The Budget outlined that the advanced technologies such as AI should be used for monitoring disease and pest infestation in crops. AI will be impactful in determining pest attacks and predicting weather conditions. The present and past data need to be collected and structured to extract meaningful insights. In addition, the Budget highlighted that advanced technologies such as IoT need to be adopted for carrying out automated irrigation and fertigation. Moreover, the implementation of IoT will save labor hours considerably and offer efficient usage of water for irrigation. The implementation of IoT will increase in the agriculture sector in the coming years. According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global IoT in agriculture market is estimated to reach $48.71 billion by 2025. As farmers try to incorporate new technologies, they may not be well trained in utilizing them and reaping great benefits. Farmers should be provided with training in utilizing such technologies. Innovative AI systems will be launched by technology firms in the coming years in the country. Government initiatives will support such launches. The agriculture sector will move toward the transformation and the drastic changes in the way farming is conducted will be observed.
In the African region, AI companies have been launching their services to bring transformation to the traditional agricultural practices. Atmo AI launched a beta version of its supercomputer in Uganda. This supercomputer is based on AI algorithms. This device provided forecasting services at a cost much lower than the traditional supercomputers. This supercomputer is aimed at providing insights into the weather threats to farmers.
AI for determining the taste of food products:
Applications of AI are focused a lot upon many agricultural practices such as irrigation, soil health monitoring, crop production, and others. However, researchers from the University of Florida developed a new method that would improve the taste of agricultural products through their chemical profiles. They studied various types of tomatoes and blueberries. Then they made two types of datasets. The first included the chemical profile of components present in the fruit and the other included the feedback received from people who assessed these fruits based on sweetness and liking. They found a correlation between chemical components present in fruits and the ratings provided by human testers. The presence of sugars and acids made a difference in taste preferences. AI and machine learning algorithms can be utilized for monitoring the components and choosing fruits accordingly. Researchers highlighted that the study paves the way to develop models to achieve the required tastes.
Pratik Kirve is writer, blogger, and sport enthusiast. He holds a bachelor degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, and is currently working as a Team Lead – Content Writing at Allied Market Research. He has an avid interest in writing across different verticals. When he is not following the updates and trends, he spends his time reading, writing poetry, and playing football.
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