Harvesting Smart Seeds: The Role of Data and Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

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September 12, 2019 | 5 minute read


Harvesting Smart Seeds: The Role of Data and Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

In agriculture, it’s the things you can’t predict that are the most terrifying. While struggling to be ever more productive, doing more with diminishing resources and battling mother nature and market shifts, staying on top of every element within your agricultural ecosystem is vital. In rugged, often isolated conditions, how can data be drawn from every thing, process, production line, bud and beast?

Anticipation, prediction, forecasting – these are all in a days’ work for a farmer. How can you be out in the field and on top of the latest tech? How can you have eyes everywhere, monitoring current conditions and adjusting procedures according to shifting climate patterns? Solving these problems is the key to the future of agriculture and, with 3 billion more mouths to feed by 2050, the stakes are certainly not diminishing. Adapting and adopting AI technology from farm to fork poses a solution to issues of predication and forecasting faced by every farm.

“The agricultural space impacts the daily activities of people across the world – this will never change. What has changed is how we drive the operational efficiency within the agricultural industry.” – Zac Steyn, Business Development Manager

The farm to fork solution

Implementing AI and big data within an agricultural ecosystem can enable monitoring across the whole supply chain, rather than just the individual processes within it. Collecting data via AI implementation across your ecosystem plants the seed for real-time forecasting and intelligent prediction, evaluating efficiency and production levels. When married with IoT devices, AI in agriculture, not to be confused with the more commonly used abbreviation for artificial insemination, has a variety of applications across the agricultural ecosystem.

Integrating IoT devices that collect and store big data to fuel AI intelligence is the key to monitoring erratic climate conditions, unlocking supply chain visibility and reducing wastage via predictive machine learning. Alongside technology like sensors, drones, big data and AI integration, the agricultural ecosystem is more than ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Foresight to combat the forecast

It’s no secret that climatory patterns are on the move, and are becoming more erratic and unpredictable. Coupled with a volatile climate and landscape variability, legacy systems are failing to compete, poking holes in farming production, resulting in wastage. Of course, these challenges are hardly new, however, without intuitive technology, farmers are struggling to combat scalability as demand for production increases. Wastage can be plugged across the value supply chain with smart IoT devices collecting data that fuels AI integration from the top down.

From fire detection to livestock monitoring, AI could deliver the key we need to unlock a harvest of resources for future generations.

Leveraging drone capabilities

Monitoring capability and finite accuracy come together with a drone, but is there room for this technology in agriculture?

It’s no secret that drones have immense monitoring capability. With the help of attached sensors, drones can expand the reach of IoT technology and not only monitor crop health, soil health, soil moisture levels but detect pest and weed presence in crops. With such monitoring and detection capability, farmers are empowered with data that can predict anomalies in crops and equip the right people within the supply chain to adjust systems accordingly, reducing damage to production.

Rather than waiting on bees and leaving things to chance, farmers can also utilise drones to pollinate crops, eliminating vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Drone footage can also be live-streamed to give farmers and people down the value chain insight into activity and progress. Gathering real-time contextualised data that empowers evidence-based decision making can plug wastage holes and reduce unnecessary downtime when anomalies occur.

Pinpoint vulnerabilities in crops before it’s too late. Drones can provide high-resolution imagery to display crop health in real-time, from spotting bacterial and fungal infection to crop development.

The IoT.nxt agriculture solution equips farmers with drone surveillance that performs soil and field analysis, irrigation, crop spraying and monitors crop health in real-time. Integrating IoT.nxt drone monitoring enables GIS mapping, real-time imaging and potential to increase yields. Our solution can optimise your agriculture ecosystem by employing drone capability, monitoring assets from crops to trackers, ensuring our platform provides a top-down solution.

How do IoT sensors work to feed AI intelligence?

IoT.nxt sensors are capable of empowering your entire ecosystem with real-time data from crops to livestock. The applications for IoT sensor technology are endless. For example, sensors can be used to measure the movement of water around a plant, from the roots to the tips of the leaves. This information is helping farmers to understand the most efficient ways to use water when breeding plants.

The agility of IoT sensors allows the technology to adapt to hostile and rugged landscapes. In a recent project launched by Stanford graduates called Ceres Imaging, sensors were attached to small planes to help farmers collect irrigation and fertilizer data.

This unprecedented information technology is opening doors to a variety of other applications. We can now use sensors for biomedical diagnostics and monitoring the environment. As the technology behind sensors continues to progress, the opportunities are endless such as testing crops for disease prevention and pesticides.

Big Data-driven livestock monitoring

According to research completed by the Stanford GSB team, American farmers who implemented precision monitoring technology reported average cost reductions of 15% and a 13% increase in yields. The livestock sector is seeing an ever-increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint. As technology is becoming increasingly more ingrained in agriculture, it is creating a revolution in the world of livestock management.

New developments in the past decade have made managing livestock much more efficient and data-driven. Livestock technology is bringing a new dynamic that is increasing productivity, welfare and management of animals. Data-driven decision making leads to more accurate and timely choices that will increase the efficiency of livestock production. For example, companies, along with IoT.nxt, have leveraged interconnected field sensors and animal tags to track and manage livestock, monitor health and fertility status, providing real-time alert management, reducing predator attacks.

In one project, IoT.nxt leveraged Bluetooth technology, tagging each animal with a low-energy tag that connects and interacts with our Virtual IoT Gateway. We install the gateway at the entrance of a water pit, allowing it to detect the cattle’s individual tags as they enter the area. Heads are automatically counted and the system issues an alert if any tagged animal is not detected within a certain period of time. Utilising this Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, the farm has continual visibility on its valuable live assets.

Seed your farm with an IoT.nxt solution

Embracing the role of IoT in utilising big data to enable AI in agriculture is the key to unlocking the potential of your farming ecosystem. We’re ready to equip your business with increased visibility and management of livestock, crops, silos and farm equipment, enabling smarter decisions and heightened efficiency.

Isn’t it time you started to harvest the power IoT.nxt puts in your hands?

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