In this week’s Artificial Intelligence Bulletin – Robot Farmers and Famine we take a look at developments in agriculture and food supply – IBM’s decision platform for farmers, famine prediction, the Hands-free Hectare experiment, and applications and impact are presented.
After raising $6 million and tinkering with autonomous robots for two years, Alexander’s startup Iron Ox says it’s ready to start delivering crops of its robotically grown vegetables to people’s salad bowls. “And they are going to be the best salads you ever tasted,” says the 33-year-old Alexander, a one-time Oklahoma farmboy turned Google engineer turned startup CEO.
Iron Ox planted its first robot farm in an 8,000-square-foot warehouse in San Carlos, California, a suburb located 25 miles south of San Francisco. Although no deals have been struck yet, Alexander says Iron Ox has been talking to San Francisco Bay area restaurants interested in buying its leafy vegetables and expects to begin selling to supermarkets next year.
IBM to Launch Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture
Paulman has 10,000 acres under cultivation in Nebraska and he generates one terabyte of data every month. IBM’s new platform allows him to bring everything together on his phone so he has a powerful, unified view of his farm.
For Paulman and other farmers, bringing AI to bear on data provides startling new powers. Growers can now film a field of corn from a drone and use AI-enabled visual recognition analysis to identify crop disease or a pest infestation. The app also allows the grower to photograph struggling plants up-close and identify the exact pest or disease. On Paulman’s farm, an agronomist currently visits once a week to analyze infestations and blight. Now, with a simple photo, Paulman can immediately find out what type of insect is affecting his plants and he can take remediation action.
“That means I can react in real-time and won’t lose yield waiting for the agronomist,” Paulman says. It also allows him to better target pesticide use, reducing environmental impact and lowering cost.
I’ve been waiting for something like this. They’re not trying to sell me more fertilizer or machines. They don’t have a horse in the race. It’s a trust thing.
Roric Paulman, Farmer
This farm has no farmers
Just after sunset on Sept. 6, 2017, celebrations erupted on a farm in the quiet county of Shropshire, England. After a year of hard labor and careful planning, researchers achieved the previously impossible: the world’s first fully automated harvest — from barren land to flourishing crops — had been successfully completed. The “Hands Free Hectare” used nothing but robots, and was yet another step forward in revolutionizing how we feed the world.
After receiving £200,000 in government funding in October 2016, the team from Harper Adams University set to work modifying a tractor and 25-year-old combine with cameras, lasers and GPS systems. Drones aided in monitoring the field, while a robot “scout” scooped up soil samples for inspection.
Previous studies on driverless tractors have used large machines to get the job done. But the Harper Adams team used another tactic: Their small tractor and combine were able to make more precise movements, limit damage to soil for future harvests and increase efficiency.
Read more at CNet
Artificial intelligence could prevent famines, says World Bank president
Jim Yong Kim, who has led the Bank since 2012, told reporters that AI could provide as much as six months warning to aid workers before a crisis.
The World Bank is working with Microsoft, Amazon and Google on the famine-spotting system, known as Artemis. This tool can trawl through data – including weather reports, satellite information and even social media – and analyse it to draw conclusions.
“This could actually end famines,” said Kim. “We are getting information well ahead of time instead of waiting until the fifth stage of famine…
“What we’re talking about is going in prior to the first stage, getting pre-first-stage information… there are huge possibilities.”
He was speaking at Stanford University in California, where students are helping to build the AI system. It is currently being tested in South Sudan, Niger, Mali, Chad and Somalia, and is planned to go live in “a small group of countries” by the middle of next year, says The Telegraph.
AI in Agriculture – Present Applications and Impact
Agriculture is both a major industry and foundation of the economy. In 2016, the estimated value added by the agricultural industry was estimated at just under 1 percent of the US GDP. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that agriculture contributes roughly $330 billion in annual revenue to the economy.
Factors such as climate change, population growth and food security concerns have propelled the industry into seeking more innovative approaches to protecting and improving crop yield. As a result, AI is steadily emerging as part of the industry’s technological evolution.
Based on our research, the most popular applications of AI in agriculture appear to fall into three major categories:
- Agricultural Robots
- Crop and Soil Monitoring
- Predictive Analytics
California Law Bans Bots From Pretending to Be Human
In California, bots will need to identify themselves thanks to a new bill just signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The measure bans automated accounts from pretending to be real people in order to “incentivize a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election,” effective July 1, 2019. Automated accounts will still be able to interact with users, but they will have to disclose that they are not, in fact, humans, according to NBC.
They can’t hide in the fine print either; the bill states that disclosures must be “clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed,” which means it will probably have to appear in the bot’s Twitter bio or Facebook profile, for example.
Read more at PC Mag
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