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.
In this article we explore applications of artificial intelligence to provide business leaders with an understanding of current and emerging trends, and present representative examples of popular applications.
Artificial Intelligence in the Agricultural Industry – Insights Up Front
Based on our research, the most popular applications of AI in agriculture appear to fall into three major categories:
- Agricultural Robots – Companies are developing and programming autonomous robots to handle essential agricultural tasks such as harvesting crops at a higher volume and faster pace than human laborers.
- Crop and Soil Monitoring – Companies are leveraging computer vision and deep-learning algorithms to process data captured by drones and/or software-based technology to monitor crop and soil health.
- Predictive Analytics – Machine learning models are being developed to track and predict various environmental impacts on crop yield such as weather changes.
In the full article below, we’ll explore each category of AI applications in the agricultural industry, along with representative companies, use-cases, and videos.
Blue River Technology – Weed Control
The ability to control weeds is a top priority for farmers and an ongoing challenge as herbicide resistance becomes more commonplace. Today, an estimated 250 species of weeds have become resistance to herbicides. In a research study conducted by the Weed Science Society of America on the impact of uncontrolled weeds on corn and soybean crops, annual losses to farmers are estimated at $43 billion.
Companies are using automation and robotics to help farmers find more efficient ways to protect their crops from weeds. Blue River Technology has developed a robot called See & Spray which reportedly leverages computer vision to monitor and precisely spray weeds on cotton plants. Precision spraying can help prevent herbicide resistance. The short video below demonstrates how the robot works in action: