The Agricultural Revolution was one of the most defining moments in human history, providing opportunities for billions of people to live richer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. We owe almost everything we have today to a few innovative pioneers from tens of thousands of years ago who recognized the value in farming.
But we shouldn't view the agricultural revolution as a singular, stagnant event. With global food demand expected to rise by 59–98% between 2005 and 2050, and the realities of a harsher, less predictable climate becoming more apparent every day, we owe it to our ourselves as well as our Neolithic ancestors to continue to find ways to innovate the way we create and use resources to keep the world fed.
At Plutoshift, we are particularly interested in the vital role artificial intelligence and big data will play in keeping farmers efficient, sustainable and profitable.
Here are three ways modern-day pioneers are unlocking their data and leveraging A.I. to deliver meaningful outcomes.
A.I. will provide actionable insights faster than ever
One of the biggest challenges modern farmers face is getting the biggest yield from their crops in a sustainable way in the face of an unpredictable environment. Farmers in Africa, for example, lose an estimated 49% of their expected total crop yield per year to factors like pests, disease and water measurement issues.
AI-powered applications can both measure and act on factors that affect yields, such as soil acidity, moisture levels, fertilizer application, and a farm’s risk of pest infestation. Farmers in Texas have used the power of AI to compare historical satellite images of farmland to accurately predict when a swarm of potentially devastating grasshoppers was making its way to crops, providing warning much earlier than ever possible before.
A.I. and smart data use can aid sustainability
Research shows that agriculture is responsible for up to a quarter of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, irrigation for agriculture is responsible for 70-90% of the world’s freshwater usage. When combined with land and fertilizer usage, these factors take a significant toll on the world’s resources and environment.
How then can we use technology to mitigate the cost to the environment, while still feeding a hungry world?
In the case of irrigation, advances in A.I. applications are helping both large and small-scale farms use water more responsibly and efficiently. One organization, DHI GRAS, developed a solution to help farmers reduce water consumption in their fields via A.I. algorithms that use thermal and optical satellite data, combined with continually updated meteorological data.
With data-driven insights provided, farmers can use exactly the right amount of water for maximum yield while limiting waste.
A.I. can refresh a struggling labor market
While agriculture was once the most popular industry worldwide, employment numbers have dwindled during the past few centuries. In fact, in 1870, almost 50 percent of the U.S. population was employed in agriculture. As of 2008, that number has dwindled to less than 2 percent. Thanks to automation and other sources of innovation that have increased yields per acre, it simply takes fewer workers to successfully run a farm than in years past.
Data-driven farming is set to provide massive economic opportunities. It has been estimated that smarter farming practices could generate $2.3 trillion overall worldwide annually, with $250 billion coming from AI and data analytics alone.
With a significantly increased demand for food and richer dietary expectations awaiting the industry in the next few decades, data-driven solutions (and the skills to provide them) will be in high demand.
Interested in learning more about how A.I. can lead to relevant and actionable data insights? Sign up for a demo of our easy-to-use platform here. Also, be sure to stay connected by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.