Mankind has been harvesting land since the dawn of civilization. Our ancestors weathered all the hurdles and considered farming the noblest of professions. Feeding the growing population while being subjected to multiple issues like climate change has become an arduous task for the farming community. Technology is seeping into the agriculture sector and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is heralding a new era of farming. The use of AI in agriculture is expected to become a $ 1550 million market by 2025 in the US alone. Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy and contributes approximately 18% of the country’s GDP. AI has the potential to transform the industry for the better and improve the efficiency and quality of the produce.
Just like a parent cares for his/her offspring, a farmer is invested in his crops. Deforestation, monocropping, soil erosion, and other reckless human activities have severely depleted soil nutrients and adversely affected productivity. Image recognition is used to monitor and identify nutrient deficiencies in the soil. The farmer can then employ the appropriate solutions. The nutrient concentration helps to determine viable crops. Too much fertilizer is harmful to the environment and AI helps to determine the apt usage. It works as an efficient alarm system that alerts the farmers to potential risks.
Crop growth relies heavily on the weather conditions that it is subject to. AI helped Tadashi Fukuoka’s aka The Tomato Whisperer take better care of his prized tomatoes. The temperature, humidity, water usage, and weather conditions influence crop growth. Each crop has optimal conditions that increase productivity. With weather forecasting, the farmer can make the necessary changes to not hamper productivity.
Sensors can also predict crop infections and diseases that the plants are vulnerable to. This is called precision agriculture. The system takes into account multiple factors that could be responsible for diseases and if the crop looks to be susceptible to those conditions, the farmer is notified so that he can take appropriate measures to curb it at the early stages. Techniques like transfer learning are used which employs tensor flow to recognize crop infection and pest damage. Fukuoka claims that AI has made his work easier. He doesn’t have to keep visiting his ‘children’ multiple times a day as the system keeps him updated about their well-being.
With the scarcity of laborers in the farming sector, the arrival of the bot seems like a heaven send. The allure of urban areas takes away valuable workforce from farms. The bots will reduce the dependency on laborers and cut back on labor costs. They are capable of assisting in tasks like harvesting and eliminating weeds, more efficiently. A bot is able to get more work done in lesser durations. Computer vision helps detect the weeds and the herbicide can be sprayed to the targeted area. This helps cut back on the volume of chemicals sprayed. The fewer chemicals sprayed on the crop, the fewer chemicals we ingest. The bots increase the productivity and quality of crops.
Chatbots have found their use in agriculture with farmers relying on the bots for assistance in farm-related problems. This helps them come up with solutions and stay educated on matters relating to their farm.
Drones are useful to analyze the health of the plantation. The aerial images and data gathered by the drone are analyzed to predict/detect infections and sustainability. It gives an overall indicator of farm health. This is ideal for large plantations where it becomes difficult to cover the entire area on foot. This saves time and energy for the farmer.
AI has introduced sustainable practices and reduced the environmental impact of farming. It has helped agriculturalists to better tackle the challenges. AI is slowly but surely making its mark in the agriculture sector and helping to meet the requirements of a growing population with the disadvantage of lesser arable land available. Emerging technology is proving to be a game-changer with Governments encouraging the use of technologies like AI and blockchain to increase outputs. The PM-KISAN, AGRI-UDAAN, and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana are some of the AI-powered projects taken up by the Government of India. Technology is helping to better the quality and quantity of the food produced so as to keep everyone fed and healthy. AI has brought in creative solutions to the problems faced by the farming community and broadened the outlook towards farming as a whole.
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