Revolutionising agriculture with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This blogpost is a part of a 4-post series where we are celebrating the role of science in agriculture. World Science Day observed every year on November 10 is a reminder for us to acknowledge and appreciate the role of science in our lives.
Today, as the world faces the challenges of population explosion, we need to get creative and efficient in agriculture, and be able to grow more with less. We need to produce nutritious crops using less land, inputs, resources and manpower. Though in its nascent stage in India, agriculture throughout the world otherwise, is turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to help make agriculture sector more resource efficient.
As the name suggests, AI refers to the intelligence of machines to collect, assimilate and understand data to make informed decisions, or at least share intelligent insights. AI has opened a whole new range of possibilities in agriculture sector which has enormous amount of regional historical data, where machines can be given the required data to make decisions on behalf of the farmer, thereby allowing for automation and efficiencies. More importantly, AI accurately predicts the environmental impacts on crop yields such as the weather pattern, which is not in the control of the farmer.
Agriculture has lost its sheen for the youth and labour shortage and costs is a common challenge in agriculture, across the world. Typically, agriculture employed labour to manage routine tasks such as monitoring crop health, sowing, harvesting the yield, irrigating the lands etc. AI robots can undertake these tasks at a faster pace and larger scale.
It is estimated that globally 4.1 million data points will be generated everyday by 2050 and data generated in the agriculture sector can be extremely beneficial for farmers. From weather conditions to soil health, water requirements to possible pest infestations, AI enabled data can help farmers make informed decisions for maximum yield.
Aids in harvest quality
The beauty of AI is that it helps in bringing “precision” to agriculture. For eg: AI sensors can detect specific weed growth where pesticides are required and monitoring apps can identify crops that are infected and need to be removed. Essentially, such analysis ensures that the harvest is well treated and fertilizers/ herbicides etc are optimally used.
In India, one of the biggest challenges for small-scale farmers is unpredictable weather. A standing crop is destroyed due to unseasonal rains and in another region, there might be no crop due to paucity of rain in the season. AI enabled weather predictions helps farmers with advance knowledge and overtime help create local-seasonal weather models to help them. AI can collect and analyze data not only from the fields but also from the sky, giving the farmer enough knowledge about what to expect in few days. Read more about the potential of drones on our blog here
Currently, the United States leads investments in research and development of AI enabled interventions in agriculture, but other countries are recognizing the potential and catching up. In 2018, the global AI in Agriculture market size was 330 million US$ and is expected to reach 1550 million US$ by the end of 2025.
This exponential growth is also being led by young Gen Z, who are able to bring the best of technology and science to agriculture with a purpose. For AI to be successful in India, it would be important to train farmers in the technology and make it affordable and accessible.