Agritech companies are betting big on artificial intelligence

Halfway through the eleventh hour of this year’s soybean planting season, farmers probably won’t be thinking about artificial intelligence. That could change in the coming years as the industry evolves toward full autonomy, according to panelists speaking on generative AI at this year’s Global Agritech Innovation Summit in San Francisco.

“Involved in the technology field, [artificial intelligence] ” said Feroz Sheikh, chief information and digital officer at Chinese agricultural technology company Syngenta Group. “We’re getting to the point where computers can understand human intent.”

Each year, the Innovation Summit hosts dozens of panel discussions covering a variety of high-level agricultural technology topics, including carbon capture and how best to leverage real-time data. The conference brings together thousands of industry leaders from both established and emerging brands.

Generative AI, a type of artificial intelligence that can generate new concepts and learn on its own, stands to fundamentally change agriculture. Elliott Grant, CEO of Mineral, Google’s agricultural technology brand, says the company’s growth over the next five years and its impact on farm machinery cannot be underestimated.

“There is an opportunity for a paradigm shift in agriculture enabled by generative AI,” he says, describing a future where machines are “continuously retrained” and even experiment with different farming techniques.

Generative AI, he says, “unlocks the concept of continuous management. We’re constantly using farm equipment in the field and it’s always learning.” “If [a robot] “Can we experimentally plant it a certain way,” and collect data after a few months and then independently improve the planting method next season?

Unlock automation

Panelists predict that AI will bring true automation to agricultural machinery within about the next five years. Maya Sripadam, senior product manager at John Deere’s Blue River Technology, says there are clear benefits in the face of climate change, a growing global population and a host of other stressors.

“We basically expect today’s farmers to be able to feed more than 50% of the world with the same workforce,” Sripadam said, noting that many farmers have decades of knowledge to feed. He noted that he is expected to take it home and retire within a few years. “We need to empower [future farmers] Harness technology that enables more decentralized decision-making. ”

Generative AI can bridge this skills gap by allowing less experienced farmers to seamlessly take over from older farmers, said Elizabeth Fastigi, Worldwide Business Development Leader at Amazon Web Services. “There’s a big difference between where we are today and where the industry is going from here. That’s a very important area for us to consider.”

The need for data

If farmers aren’t yet incorporating generative AI into their operations, Tavant’s Vineet Durana predicts they will soon as it becomes embedded in modern machinery. . Historically, agricultural equipment has been primarily designed to perform agricultural tasks manually or autonomously.

“It’s not built for decision-making. That’s only happened in the last five years,” he says. “I’ve seen it before. [adoption] Even in other industries. But we are right at the pinnacle in agriculture. ”

To achieve this objective, panelists agreed that agricultural technology companies need to redefine competition. No single brand or organization can collect enough data. Data must be shared because the consequences of getting machine autonomy wrong can be dire. If machines don’t work as expected, crops won’t grow.

“Data is the fuel that makes this engine work,” says Randy Barker, CEO of Intent, an agricultural technology software and services company. “Without data, there is no AI. There are several challenges that need to be overcome.”

Once fully realized, farmers will no longer need to run their machines at the 11th hour, Sripadam said. AI stands to take them out of the field and put them in a more fulfilling place.

“In five years, farmers will be better off,” she says. “Autonomous machines will make a difference so they can go to their kids’ games, eat hot meals and have a better work-life balance.”

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