Farming is, by far, the most mature industry mankind has created. Dating back to the dawning of civilization, agriculture has been refined, adjusted and accommodated but never perfected. We, as a society, always worry over the future of farming. Today, we even apply words usually reserved for the tech sector digital, IoT, AI and so on. So why are we worrying?
The Economist, in its Q2 Technology Quarterly issue, extol agriculture will shortly need to become more manufacturing-like that are intended to feed the worlds growing population. Scientific American reports crops will shortly need to become more drought resistant in order to effectively grow in uncertain climates. Farms, The New York Times writes, will shortly need to learn how to harvest more with less water.
And theyre right. If farms are to continue to feed the worlds population they will have to do so in ways both independent of, and accommodating to, the planets changing and highly variable climes. That necessitates the smart application of both proven and cutting-edge technology. It necessitates simplified interfaces. And, of course, it necessitates building out and applying those skills today.
Fortunately, the basics for this future are being explored today. For example, horizontal farming, a technique allowing farmers to grow and harvest harvests in controlled surroundings, often indoors and in vertical stacks, has explosion in both popularity and potential. In fact, this method has been shown to grow some crops 20 percent faster with 91 percent less water. Genetically modified seeds, capable of withstanding droughts and deluges, are stimulating harvests possible even in the driest of conditions, like those found in Kenya.
If farms are to continue to feed the worlds population they will have to do so in manners both independent of, and accommodating to, the planets changing and highly variable climes .
But managing such progress, whether indoors or in the field, is a challenge unto itself. Monitoring acidity, soil nutrients and watering hour for each plant for optimal growth is, at best, guesswork or, at the worst, an afterthought. But its here new interactive technologies may shine. A small household of sensors can monitor a plants vitals and offer real-time updates to a remote server. Artificial intelligences younger cousin, machine learning, can study these vitals and the growth of some crops to anticipate future needs. Ultimately, augmented reality( AR ), where informative images overlay or augment everyday objects, can help both farmers and gardeners to monitor and manage crop health.
Plant.IO* is one system that shows how it can be done: Acube of PVC pipes provides the frame for sensors, grow-lights, cameras and more. A remote server dedicated to machine learning analyzes growth and growth conditions and foresees future plant needs. A define of AR-capable glass provides to the user an image, or a representation, of the plant, irrespective of place. If the AR device is capable, like the Microsoft HoloLens, the committee is also can provide a means to interact with the plant by adjusting fertilizer, water flow, growth suns and more.
This methodology, when paired with gamification, may lend itself to a new, simplified kind of crop management. Together, AI and AR make it simple and fun for everyone from adults to teens to monitor and manage their own gardens from home and afar. This idea is at the heart of Plant.IO: a fun, workable answer for an agriculture-based scenario where digital information can overlay a physical object or area without losing context.
In fact, this sort of management system could extend beyond gardens and farms. Any scenario where a physical surrounding exists alongside measurable data could, potentially, is beneficial for an AR/ AI deployment. Industrial operations, such as warehouse management, are a promising area. Industrial farming, where the combination of AI and infrared cameras to measure a fields health, is another.
With the right formula of AR and AI, users can monitor and nurture plants from virtually anywhere in the world. It doesnt matter if theyre growing plants on their kitchen counter, or preparing for their next harvest. Better yet, they can do this with the latest information on a plants acidity, nutrient, watering levels and more in an environmentally sound manner.
The first industrial revolution helped us go from the fields to the cities with the productivity gains from machine agriculture. This industrial revolution is utilizing machine learning and other digital enforces to take farming even further and to feed the world.
* Disclosure 😛 lant.IO is an open-source digital farming project created by Infosys .