Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Farming

In 2016, the EPA estimated that U.S. agriculture contributed nearly $330 billion in revenue to the economy[1]. However, as the climate continues to change and become more unpredictable, coupled with the global concerns of a growing population, farmers will face difficulty keeping up with the demand for agricultural products in the coming years. One method that can help farmers tremendously is artificial intelligence. AI has helped boost the practical application of innovative farming methods making agriculture a viable, sustainable, field that will continue to grow. There are many benefits to implementing AI in indoor farms. It is known to help maximizes profits for farmers while also having minimal environmental impact.

Automation and AI, like rovers and smart grids, are hugely beneficial to indoor farms as they lead to improved operations, increased yields, and lower costs. Using cloud-based AI to maximize harvest yield and quality will allow farmers maximum profits. AI systems like the ones Katif uses will aid in “long-term planning, simulation, and custom-tailored plans for different regions.”

Automation is especially applicable to vertical farms. The goal of integrating AI technology into innovative farming techniques like vertical farming is to “minimize time to market, reduce distribution, production, and environmental costs, and standardize product quality.”

AI allows for more precision in agriculture. It can help us figure out the best time to plant, where resources like water and fertilizer can be best allocated, getting rid of weeds, and better identify crop diseases. AI encourages sustainability even in traditional farm settings by expanding farmers’ knowledge about the land they farm on.[1]

Using fewer resources for agriculture isn’t just beneficial for farmers’ wallets, it also benefits the environment as well. Using AI and smart grids cut water intake by 35%, which will help depleting aquifers and areas in drought.[2]

Additionally, an estimated 250 types of weeds have developed a resistance to herbicides, which has led to an estimated $43 billion annual loss in corn and soybean crops for American farmers. Drones, rovers, and other machines will aid in catching weeds before they destroy crops, all while using as few chemicals as possible.[3]

In Katif’s indoor farm, the use of smart grids and rovers decreased the number of man-hours compared to traditional vertical farming systems by 50%. This is due to the “high automation levels and logistical efficiency achieved through the patented smart grid and rovers.”

One concern regarding the integration of AI in innovative farming is the loss of jobs for human laborers, especially in rural areas where traditional agriculture is the primary source of income for many families.

However, cities will need indoor farming jobs, and fostering the growth of these farms can open many doors in rural regions to “green industries.” These include eco-tourism, wind farms, and greenhouse supplies. Also, crops such as grain currently are not grown in greenhouses, and traditional outdoor farms remain better-suited for these types of plants. Further, innovative farming does not affect dairy or livestock farms.

AI and automation may seem like a problem for those worried about the future of jobs, but overall, these technologies will benefit both the suppliers and consumers of produce and other agricultural products. It will refine the way both traditional and innovative farming is done and bring the most profit, highest yields, and quality food all with little to no environmental impact.

[1] https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/2018/11/29/feeding-the-world-with-ai-driven-agriculture-innovation/

[2] https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/2018/11/29/feeding-the-world-with-ai-driven-agriculture-innovation/

[3] https://emerj.com/ai-sector-overviews/ai-agriculture-present-applications-impact/