In the future, drones robots and intelligent monitoring systems will undoubtedly revolutionise the farming industry. New “ultra-precision” agriculture will largely be responsible for filling your shopping baskets.
You may think, why is this technological revolution necessary?
Well, the answer is quite simple…
There have been some recent successful field tests, but it will now be the number one priority to begin developing large scale real-life applications.
This must be done simply because it is estimated that the global population is set to reach 9.2 billion by the year 2050. This means that in 33 years, there will be approximately 2 billion more people on this planet. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.
Due to this growing population, there is a significant shortage of acreage needed to grow crops. This means that the obvious solution of “Just grow more crops!” is off the table. Farmers will need to learn to work with these technologies in order to make current farming methods more efficient.
So a job that was once considered very physical and labour intensive will also be looked at as very technical and modern.
Let’s take a look at the ways AI is shaping the farms of the future.
Self Driving Tractors
I know what you’re thinking; We already have self-driving cars so I guess this one isn’t that surprising. It is, however, a much more significant development than self-delivering pizza vehicles.
By combining sophisticated software with existing technologies like radar and GPS farmers will be able to hand over the reins of their tractors to AI.
This will significantly reduce the physical labour that has been placed on farmers for centuries and allow more acreage to be worked on for a longer time.
Modern Irrigation Systems
In the present day, farmers rely heavily on historical weather conditions to predict required resources. However, n the future, automated irrigation systems will utilise real-time machine learning. This is done to maintain the desired soil conditions in order to greatly increase crop yields.
Again this means much less labour for farmers, but the most significant outcome of this on a global scale is a much greater ability to manage the worlds most important resource. Water.
With 70% of the world’s freshwater used for agriculture, AI will have a critical role to play in reducing the likelihood of a global water shortage.
Right now, the methods used for monitoring crop health are incredibly time-consuming. In the future, there are companies who are developing automated detection and analysis technologies.
These technologies will substantially increase the volume of data collected allowing farmers to produce diagnostics for single plants. Again, greatly increasing crop yield by allowing farmers to provide personalised care for each plant.
Again, like the tractors, you have probably heard of facial recognition. However, this technology will soon expand into the world of cattle. Okay so there is already ‘Smart Cattle’ monitoring systems, but these require physical tracking devices.
Facial recognition means that in the future farmers will be able to eliminate the stress on animals when fitting devices. Using facial recognition farmers will be able to keep track of an entire heard with very little interaction. Allowing heard monitoring for signs of lameness and accurate recording of feeding habits.
Those Pesky Drones
Another unsurprising inclusion on this list, drones are not really thought of as futuristic anymore. However, this is one of the more productive uses for this device.
It is all about producing more food and the purpose of a drone in agriculture is no different. In-depth field analysis and long-distance crop spraying provide insights that allow for a greater yield.
More practical applications for drones are closer than you might think. It is likely that drones will become just another part of a farmers armoury, alongside the shovel and spade.
AI Versus Pests
Pests have always plagued farmers. Some 10,000 years after the invention of agriculture, locusts, grasshoppers and other crop-devouring insects still eat profits and gobble grains that would otherwise feed human beings. AI gives growers a weapon against cereal-hungry bugs.
Not long ago, a farmer in Texas checked the direction of the wind and reckoned a swarm of grasshoppers was likely to descend on the southwest corner of his farm. Before he could check his crops, the farmer got an alert on his smartphone from the AI and data company he hires to help monitor his farm.
Checking new satellite images against pictures of the same parcel over a five-year period, an AI algorithm detected that the insects had landed in another corner of the farmer’s field. The farmer inspected the section, confirmed the warning was accurate and removed the costly pests from his field of nearly ripened corn.
The future of Agriculture
Although hailed as the future of farming, the extent to which AI will change the daily operations of the traditional family farm is yet to be seen. However, with new Agritech companies producing increasingly accessible technology, the ‘digital farm’ of the future may be closer than we think.