“Hey Siri, how are my crops doing?” Autonomy in Agriculture Potpourri

Modern agriculture is only possible with the use of advanced technology.  In an upcoming interview, we will learn about what the future of agriculture looks like with highly advanced autonomous systems and how farmers are reacting and coping.

Until then, here are some interesting stories about autonomous systems and agriculture.

[U.S. Department of Agriculture] Smart Phones: The Latest Tool for Sustainable Farming

It is nice to see AI being used to help meet the food demands of a growing world population. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed two apps, “LandInfo” and “LandCover,” available on the Google Play Store.

With LandInfo, users can collect and share soil and land-cover information as well as gain access to global climate data. The app also provides some useful feedback, including how much water the soil can store for plants to use, average monthly temperature and precipitation, and growing season length.

LandCover simplifies data collecting for use in land-cover inventories and monitoring. The app automatically generates basic indicators of these cover types on the phone and stores the data on servers that are accessible to users worldwide.





[BBC News] Tell me phone, what's destroying my crops?

AI is also being used in India to help farmers. Drought, crop failure, and lack of accessibility to modern technology make it hard for Indian farmers.   In fact, an estimated 200,000 farmers have ended their lives in the last two decades due to debt.  A group of researchers from Berlin have developed an app called Plantix to help farmers detect crop diseases and nutrient deficiency in their crops.

The farmer photographs the damaged crop and the app identifies the likely pest or disease by applying machine learning to its growing database of images.

Not only can Plantix recognise a range of crop diseases, such as potassium deficiency in a tomato plant, rust on wheat, or nutrient deficiency in a banana plant, but it is also able to analyse the results, draw conclusions, and offer advice.

[Western Farm Press] Smartphones and apps taking agriculture by storm

AI has also given farmers a lot of convenience. They can now perform tasks such as starting or stopping center pivot irrigation systems from the convenience of their home. 

Before I might have to go out in the rain at 2 a.m. to turn off a center pivot or check to make sure it was operating,” says Schmeeckle. “Now I can turn a pivot on or off with my smartphone. I even started one while we were 300 miles away on vacation this summer, and it was still running when I got home.”
Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

[MIT Technology Review] Six ways drones are revolutionizing agriculture

The market for drone-powered solutions in agriculture is estimated at $32.4 billion. Applications include soil and field analysis, planting, crop spraying, crop monitoring, irrigation, and health assessment,

Agricultural producers must embrace revolutionary strategies for producing food, increasing productivity, and making sustainability a priority. Drones are part of the solution, along with closer collaboration between governments, technology leaders, and industry.
Lettuce Bot is a machine that can “thin” a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the job by hand.

After a lettuce field is planted, growers typically hire a crew of farmworkers who use hoes to remove excess plants to give space for others to grow into full lettuce heads. The Lettuce Bot uses video cameras and visual-recognition software to identify which lettuce plants to eliminate with a squirt of concentrated fertilizer that kills the unwanted buds while enriching the soil.