Is AI the Future of Sustainable Farming?

Is AI the Future of Sustainable Farming?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a part of daily life for a long time, and in fact, many of us will use it regularly without really thinking about it. Think, “Alexa, what’s the weather like today”.   

But how useful is AI in vertical farming?  

Vertical farming involves growing crops in vertically stacked layers, using artificial lighting and controlled measures to ensure the best growing environments. With the addition of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, this method of growing has the potential to revolutionise food production. Helping to sustainably meet the growing demand for fresh food, and functional plant ingredients.

What is Artificial Intelligence? 

Artificial intelligence is defined as the theory and development of computer systems that can perform tasks ordinarily requiring human intelligence.  

AI has many applications such as: 

  • Speech recognition, both in creating speech-to-text documents and in systems such as Siri and Alexa 
  • Customer service, such as using online virtual agents to answer FAQs 
  • Automation tools 
  • Recommendation systems, e.g. those used by YouTube and Netflix 

“If a computer does something, it does it the same every time. That's really where automation can help us. It's about keeping our product consistent and clean." - Dr Phill, Head of R&D at Oragen Group. 

How is AI Used in Farming? 

There’s a lot that can go wrong between the time that seeds are sown, and when crops are harvested. When growing outdoors, pests or diseases can have a big impact, as can varying weather conditions. AI is used within conventional agriculture for applications such as crop and soil monitoring, insect and plant disease detection, aerial survey and imaging, health monitoring, intelligent spraying, weeding, and more. 

Whilst vertical farming doesn’t have these same limitations, high care of the controlled environment needs to be prioritised to ensure the best results. This method can benefit from AI in different ways. Machine learning is used to analyse data collected from sensors, giving more information to help manage growth. Computer vision technology can monitor plant growth and health, detecting any anomalies.   

Advantages of AI in Vertical Farming 

  • AI can help in creating a precise and controlled environment. Whether that’s through sensors or other monitoring systems, or through regulating environment controls such as temperature, lighting, and humidity.  
  • Data collected from sensors can be used to analyse and predict growth patterns and detect any issues with the plants. This alerts farmers and allows them to take corrective actions, preventing any crop loss.  
  • Using automation, AI can help with basic, repetitive tasks in vertical farming, such as seed planting or harvesting, removing manual tasks and more effectively using skilled workers’ time. 

Disadvantages of AI in Vertical Farming: 

  • The use of AI in vertical farming can require a significant initial investment, due to the infrastructure and equipment needed.  
  • It can be a complex solution, with specialist knowledge and expertise needed to operate and maintain the technology.  
  • The dependence on technology can have a negative impact on productivity and crop yields, were the systems to fail or exhibit disruption.  

To conclude, we can see that AI does have the potential to transform the way we produce food, helping to ensure more efficiency and sustainability within farming. This technology is constantly changing and evolving over time, and we’re starting to see it becoming more widespread in food production. 

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