The use of technology in farming is nothing new. Farmers have long used different types of tech to improve yields, boost productivity and add value. From the invention of the corn picker in 1850, to rotary combines, to the use of software and mobile devices today – technology and farming go hand-in-hand. But what’s next? Microsoft, the global technology company, seems to have an answer. In their recent global marketing campaign, ‘This Is Now,’ Microsoft highlights the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) analytics in agriculture.
Agribusiness stands to profit massively from AI. The technology promises to make companies more immune to the unpredictability of farming, thereby increasing yields and improving profitability. One such example is FarmBeats; a Microsoft project to build unique solutions to enable data-driven farming using low-cost sensors, drones, vision and machine learning algorithms.
Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
Farmers can use predictive analytics from AI to help predict yields. Sensors, drones and cameras can be used to capture data on specific characteristics from the farm, such as soil moisture, soil PH and other farm activity. AI can “learn” from analyzing all this data. For example; using an AI system to analyze thousands of photographs of crops at different states of irrigation, along with data on the yields produced for each photograph will enable the AI system build up an internal model of what is likely to constitute yields for any given field condition. AI systems are capable of learning, reasoning and self-correcting, and, over time, this model can be refined, to effectively better itself as more and more data is added to the model.
And this is where the magic happens. Artificial intelligence uses all these sources of data and analytics to help companies implement precision agriculture by augmenting data. Augmented data describes any information that’s made more useful through AI. This gives farmers the potential to create interactive maps that detail soil health and pH levels, along with a variety of other intelligent data all captured directly from the farm itself.
Agriculture Analytics Provides Companies:
- Recommendations on how much fertilizer should be used to optimize growing conditions based on current and historic pH levels
- The data needed for precision agriculture, based on crucial variables such as irrigation levels, temperature and humidity
- Micro-climate predictions, based on wind direction and wind speed, as well as making predictions on non-captured data such as leaf wetness
- With accurate predictions, based on farm data, farmers can determine when and where to plant, treat and harvest crops – maximizing yields to significantly increase profit margins
- With insights into crop conditions, they can drastically save on inputs such as fertilizers and chemicals by optimizing usage and avoiding misdiagnosis
- With actionable insights into soil health, companies can be assured their produce is meeting food safety and quality control measures
Perhaps most appealing, is that all this data is accessible via any internet-connected device. It is also easy to navigate thanks to intuitive interfaces built specifically for the industry, can be used offline and stores historical farm data for long-term analyses.
A central message of Microsoft’s campaign is that the use of AI-driven tech on farms is becoming a necessity as food production struggles to prepare for the demands of a growing population. And that this presents a huge opportunity for agribusiness to scale in order to cater to this demand, thereby increasing profit margins.
Considering a recent UN report suggesting agricultural production will have to grow 70% by 2050 to meet projected demand, the availability of AI-driven technologies is a welcomed progression.
Interested to see how Velosio helps fresh food producers and distributors use Microsoft Dynamics to increase efficiency and profits? Watch our webinar, Traceability and Consignment Management.