The discovery of Agriculture is a significant milestone in the history of humankind. It marks the beginning of human settlements and more advanced civilization. Our farms feed billions of people across the globe and provide a means of employment for millions of people in the industry, worldwide. Right now, we produce just about enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but a billion or so are starving due to the unequal distribution of food.
By 2050, our population is expected to increase by 2 billion people. So with no concurrent increase in the size of fertile land for food production, this is bound to pose a severe problem unless we act quickly. To feed the world by 2050, in the next 30 years we’ll need to produce the same amount of food as we did, over the last 8000 years ago says Ernst van den Ende, Head of Plant Science at WUR. That’s an insanely large amount of food.
The estimated rapid increase in our population, and increasing scarcity of land, put a lot of pressure on the area we have available. So in other to avoid a global food crisis, we need to get smarter with the way with farms and the way we produce food.
The methods we employ in agriculture have to be a lot more sustainable and provide more food with fewer natural resources. In other, for humanity to solve the impending burden of a food crisis, the agricultural industry is now looking for ways to implement artificial intelligence. This means we need to ensure we make the most out of the resources we have.
Here’s a glance through some of the ways Artificial Intelligence is helping us change the way we used to farm:
- It helps us evaluate data better
- It lightens the physical load
- It helps us learn through real-life simulations
- It helps us adapt better to the needs of plants
So, let’s jump right into the details of how innovations in artificial intelligence are changing the agricultural scene.
It Helps Us Evaluate Data Better
While experience can tell a farmer a lot of things, like when to plant, water and harvest. There’s still only so much data the human mind can process before deciding to ignore it. Some of this data that might get lost in the myriad of information the farmer has to absorb daily could also be very important. Some factors, such as the slight change in the weather and specific rate of absorption, can be challenging to calculate and see the effect in the bigger picture. But with the help of AI, we can gather data from the ground and the sky. We can analyze things such as weather, water usage, soil texture, and nutrition. We can even better monitor plant diseases and the effect of herbicides. Using these handy means of evaluation can significantly improve how and when we plant to get the best out of our available resources.
It Lightens the Physical Load
In today’s world, we already have several types of machinery that help in the process of planting, irrigation, and harvesting. However, with the influx of workforce to urbanized areas, the workforce in the agricultural sector is on the decline. Thankfully, the issue of labor is not likely to pose a threat to the growth of food, thanks to advances in AI. Soon, we should have droids that are capable of removing weeds, cultivating the soil, harvesting, and even helping in crop protection. This would greatly improve the efficiency of our farms and significantly lighten the load of existing human resources.
It Helps Us Learn through Real Life Simulation
Current research in the field of agriculture is being carried out to compare the best weather and climate for the growth of plants. In the Netherlands, centers exist under carefully calculated factors such as humidity, temperature, and pressure can create simulations of peppers growing in the field of Chile. These greenhouses cannot only mimic but can also be set to automatically adjust the different inputs to suit the plant, without the intervention of a human. This innovation can help us understand the specific conditions best suited for each plant, and what we can do to maximize our harvest. In addition to that, other studies utilize LED lights to grow certain crops and monitor diseases and pests.
It Helps Us Adapt Better to the Needs of Plants
We’ve talked about how AI helps us collect and analyze more data faster and more accurately. We’ve also mentioned the way AI can help us create simulations of weather in different countries and at different times of the year. Thus, allowing us to study and collect information on plant behavior and patterns long after they are no longer in season in the outside world due to weather conditions.
All these factors contribute to helping us understand the needs of our plants to specific details. Like the amount of water, a plant needs before and after it starts bearing fruits, the particular temperature required for nuts to get ripe, and the best soil composition to achieve the most yield.
There’s a lot of optimization that has to be done in the next 30 years, in other to feed the world’s population by mid-century. But through the proper implementation of artificial intelligence and agriculture recruitment of human resources, we can create more sustainable farms and produce more with less.