How Artificial Intelligence is Helping Farmers and the Planet
Love it or hate it, artificial intelligence is a part of our lives, and has been for longer than many of us realize. With everything happening in the news from Alexa to influencer robots, it can get a freaky rap. Instead of fearing the unknown, it's important to learn about all of the cool ways artificial intelligence is working to solve issues facing our planet.
But wait, what is artificial intelligence?
Right, so first let's backtrack and do a quick crash course. AI is commonly defined as the ability of a machine to perform cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with the environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity. Emerging technologies that enable AI to solve such problems are robotics, autonomous vehicles, computer vision, and machine learning.
Cool, so how is this helping us make the planet more sustainable?
AI is tapping into so many industries as an integral part of a solution for climate change.
For example, it’s helping create more accurate forecasts of wind and solar power. This can not only help bring more energy into the grid, but also grow the renewable energy market.
Why we think AI is one of the coolest things impacting the agriculture industry
From agricultural robotics, to soil and crop monitoring and predictive analytics, AI is becoming an integral part of modern agriculture. Companies like Blue River Technology are enabling farmers in the field to optimize their planting and herbicide usage thanks to computer vision. Trace Genomics is helping them detect early signs of disease.
And while all of these emerging technologies are fostering smarter farming, the industry as a whole needs to step up and address the larger issues at hand such as the overconsumption of freshwater resources, overuse of pesticides, biodiversity loss, a fragmented supply chain, and more. AI can help agriculture create actionable solutions.
How Bowery’s implementing AI for scalable solutions
At Bowery, we grow indoors, which affords us with sustainable and scalable advantages.
Our proprietary operating system, the BoweryOS, monitors the growing process 24/7 and captures data at every step, which allows us to give our crops exactly what they need to thrive (for example, our farms use 95%+ less water than traditional agriculture). Holistically, the system is responsible for everything from controlling growing conditions, to farm automation, to how and when farm work gets carried out.
With the level of granularity our system affords, we can apply AI to do things such as test, productionize, and scale crop recipes.
Okay, I think I’m still with you - how is AI developing Bowery’s perfect crop recipe?
Crop recipes are defined as the combination of the many environmental variables that go into growing a plant. Traditionally, a farmer’s recipe would involve things like seeds, fertilizer, time of year, and geographic location of the farm itself.
At Bowery, we can look at an entirely new set of granular factors: spectra of light, photoperiod (day/night cycles), intensity of light, irrigation schedules, nutrients, airflow, temp, humidity, and CO2. Not only do we have control of these variables, but we can adjust these factors hour by hour or minute by minute to optimize.
In our farms, we use machine learning algorithms to help us search through the high-dimensional recipe space, testing a multitude of small factors at once to further hone in on the most effective recipe. The recipes with the highest rates success are further refined and scaled automatically through our farms.
This method of using AI allows us test, iterate, and scale scientific exploration at a pace not previously achievable in agriculture. Our ability to learn and scale that learning is tied to the number of farms we have, and subsequently the amount of data we collect, rather than the size of the R&D team.
AI = Efficiency for All
Artificial Intelligence is often an unknown and misunderstood industry, but it is important to raise awareness for all the good it is bringing to the world. From helping us reduce a buildings energy consumption to even helping an indoor farm uncover that perfect sustainable recipe, it’s making humans smarter than ever before to inch toward a happier planet.