Why AI has not yet had its breakthrough in agriculture

Why AI has not yet had its breakthrough in agriculture

Artificial intelligence is gaining ground in many areas. However, the new technology does not yet seem to have really arrived in agriculture. The reason for this is nature, which is throwing a spanner in the works of AI. Nevertheless, the opportunities that AI could offer agriculture are immense.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Artificial intelligence has been the talk of the town ever since ChatGPT was founded. While the technology is already being used in numerous areas and is already making processes more efficient, it is still unclear how AI can be used in other areas. One of these is agriculture.

While digitalisation has arrived in agriculture, artificial intelligence still needs to be trained to a large extent in order to be used efficiently in agriculture. The biggest difficulty here is that nature is often unpredictable. ‘From the point of view of AI specialists, there is nothing more brutal than nature,’ explains Philipp Schmid, Head of Research at the Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM), in an interview with the ‘Bauern Zeitung’. According to Thomas Anken from the Digital Production research group at Agroscope, the problem often lies in the collection of data. AI is dependent on good data, but this is often in short supply in agriculture. ‘There are still a lot of gaps in the area of sensor systems, as many important parameters cannot yet be collected easily and cost-effectively.’ One example of this is the nitrate content in the soil.


Measuring biodiversity with a super drone

Another hurdle for AI in agriculture is the small areas of land. As Schmid explains, Switzerland is full of small farms with different farming zones and many special circumstances - poor conditions for affordable AI applications.

However, according to Schmid, farmers are generally not averse to new technologies or AI. The rapid spread of autonomous barn robots or drones also makes this clear. Just recently, a new drone that can measure biodiversity in forests made the headlines. According to a report in ‘Schweizer Bauer’, the drone was developed by a team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, ETH Zurich and the University of Pisa. Unlike conventional drones, the monitoring drone developed by the scientists does not perceive shrubs and branches as an obstacle, but can push them away or even glide through them and thus observe biodiversity.

The Flora-Incognita app offers another way of monitoring biodiversity. It makes it possible to identify plants quickly and easily. Using the app is child's play: users take a photo of the plant they want to find out more about with their smartphone camera, upload it to the app and then receive information about the plant. This information is provided by botanists.


When laypeople measure biodiversity

The best thing is that biodiversity is monitored entirely by means of citizen science. Each individual user plant photo, together with its location and time, contributes to a large data set that ultimately provides information on biodiversity in the individual areas.

These are just a few examples. One thing is clear: AI offers many opportunities for agriculture. The new technologies can not only improve efficiency, productivity and sustainability, but also increase animal welfare and reduce the physical strain and time commitment of farmers.

Nevertheless, AI also harbours certain risks. For example, cybercrime and data misuse are always an issue. According to Anken, it is therefore important to take the necessary precautions to prevent such misuse.

Kindly note:

We, a non-native editorial team value clear and faultless communication. At times we have to prioritize speed over perfection, utilizing tools, that are still learning.

We are deepL sorry for any observed stylistic or spelling errors.

Related articles

Production: More food with fewer resources
Knowledge

Production: More food with fewer resources

One of the greatest challenges of this century will be to feed an estimated ten billion people in a safe and sustainable manner. To achieve this goal, agriculture needs to become much more productive.

From Data to Harvests - How Digitization is Improving Agriculture
Knowledge

From Data to Harvests - How Digitization is Improving Agriculture

Digitalization is making its way into agriculture. At the Swiss-Food Talk on April 25, 2023, three experts from the agricultural machinery industry, vegetable production, and agricultural media discussed how digitization is changing food production. The consensus is that we are in the transition from industrial to smart agriculture, where data and algorithms as support allow precise interventions and serve sustainability.

Green genetic engineering: A rethink is required
New Breeding Technologies Media

Green genetic engineering: A rethink is required

There are now more skeptics than ever before when it comes to biotechnological plant breeding methods, despite 30 years of research having produced a clear data basis. Conventional genetic engineering or the more modern CRISPR/Cas method present no increased risks compared to traditional breeding methods, such as cross-breeding.

Nutrition: Does the future belong to the green gene scissors?
Knowledge

Nutrition: Does the future belong to the green gene scissors?

New plant varieties contribute to security of supply. The new breeding methods known as "gene scissors", such as Crispr, have the potential to revolutionise agriculture and nutrition.

Regional products are more in demand than ever
Knowledge

Regional products are more in demand than ever

The demand for regional products could hardly be greater. This is shown by a new study by the Zurich School of Business. Consumers even consider regional products to be significantly more sustainable than organic or premium products. To keep up with this trend, it is therefore all the more important to promote modern breeding techniques and plant protection products.

Tomatoes: From «water bomb» to aromatic fruit
Knowledge

Tomatoes: From «water bomb» to aromatic fruit

The diversity of commercially marketed tomato varieties is greater today than ever before. This has to do in particular with the breeding of new varieties.

Public funds for avoidable crop failures: neither sustainable nor resource-efficient
Knowledge

Public funds for avoidable crop failures: neither sustainable nor resource-efficient

The reduced use of plant protection products is causing much smaller wheat and rapeseed harvests. A study carried out by Swiss Agricultural Research reveals that such crop failures can only be offset by state subsidies. This is neither sustainable nor resource-efficient.

More contributions from Knowledge