Agriculture 2.0 — AI, Machines, and Organic Farming

Unless you are living under a rock, you would have heard about the investments that most billionaires have made in farming. These are usually in equipment that are used for agriculture, farmlands, and technology companies that are trying to solve issues in the agriculture domain.

Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are making big bets on farmland

It shouldn’t come as a surprise because agriculture is the next booming sector. While there is definitely a strong expected growth in the technology companies but the reality is harsh. The world population is going to struggle for good quality food resources in the coming times. For those of you who understand food scarcity, exploding population, and disastrous impacts of wrong farming practices, it is easy to relate why the agriculture domain has become the eye candy for investors.

Background

After the Cold War, the world has mostly lived in peace. Though there were a few conflicts here and there, but they were initiated and controlled by the global economical powers for their sport and power play. The world hasn’t seen a big-scale issue in the last 60–70 years.

In these years the population has almost doubled. To cater to the food needs of these people, there have been a dozen of food revolutions in various parts of the globe. The majority of these revolutions have used Urea, Chemicals, and agricultural machines to generate food. The primary focus in these years has been the quantity to sustain the world population. As a result, we are not short of food and there is a ton of food waste.

But this time has also marked the rise in cancer, ill effects of genetically modified foods, and soil infertility. Now we are in a position where the majority of farmlands can’t sustain production in absence of insecticides and fertilizers. The foods generated by these lands are spiking cancer in the global population and fail to pass the tests of various world governments.

Farmers, Pesticides, and Cancer

In short, the problem now is “how to generate a healthy food, that can sustain the global population?”

How the scientists are trying to solve it?

We are resorting to the practices followed by our ancestors in a more technologically advanced manner. The focus has again shifted to organic farming.

More and more people are using environment friendly farming practices. The use of fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals is shunned. The rich are ready to pay premium prices for organic food and the rate of adoption of organic items is seeing double-digit growth in each segment.

But the problem with organic agriculture practices is that it doesn’t generate sufficient output and the world population is hungry.

Moreover, there are issues with insects and pests, which minimize the output even more.

That’s where the machines and AI come to help: Welcome to Smart Box agriculture

The next generation of farming is closed box farming which is currently being researched upon. It uses close spaces which are integrated with sensors, computers, and programs to control the farming.

The idea of this concept is to separate the crops from the external environment and thus save them from the ill impacts of the environment. At the same time, the use of sensors such as air humidity, soil moisture, temperature, light, soil nutrients, etc. helps the farmers produce the best quality products. The crops produced by these boxes can be controlled for the nutrients and growth rate.

Moreover, there are benefits of vertical farming in these boxes because they can be stacked, stored, and transported as per the demand. Supply chain management is also better due to the use of AI and machine learning. This is the most demanded solution for perishable food items and promises a new revolution in the vegetables & fruits industry.

However, things are a bit different for large-scale production facilities. They need to install the tents/ scaffolds and other structures on big farmlands in order to isolate the crops. It is not always possible to isolate crops and thus they are relying on machines.

Open roof agriculture relies on sensors placed at multiple points in the farmland. These sensors pick data related to soil, air, and plant conditions. Then there are automated machines that are used to sprinkle water, weed out unwanted plants, and record pest activity in any part of the farm. The machines use machine vision systems to record the data in periodic & real-time. The data is used to generate commands to control autonomous UAV, and agriculture robots. These robots act based on pre-recorded conditions and control the damage to crops.

There are systems that direct CO2, oxygen, bright light, and laser on certain parts of the farmland to address various issues. The use of acoustic systems and electric charges to neutralize pests by targeting a laser/ current/ UV wave is also being tested.

However, it is adding to the costs and thus the produce by these farms is priced higher. The health-conscious people are still buying these products and thus the domain is going for a revolution. Also, there is hope in terms of numbers. The players who are making these machines are having a good time due to demands.

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