Embracing technological change is an imperative for industries aiming to stay afloat in an ocean of relentless innovation. Agriculture, a pillar of our global economy, is no stranger to this current. One emerging trend that’s galvanising the agricultural industry is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in crop breeding, leading to significant strides in the sector’s growth and efficiency.
The fusion of AI with traditional agricultural practices is not merely about repainting the old with a coat of the new. This convergence is ushering in an era of precision agriculture, where farmers can predict, with impressive accuracy, the outcomes of their cultivation strategies. It feels like we’re entering an epoch of agricultural science fiction, where technology enables the creation of ‘super crops’.
AI and Predictive Analytics: Breeding Success
A recent report by Grand View Research suggested that the AI in agriculture market is projected to reach $11.2 billion by 2027, witnessing a considerable CAGR of 25.4% from 2020. This dramatic surge is attributable to AI’s predictive capabilities, notably in crop breeding.
In essence, AI allows breeders to model thousands of potential genetic combinations, estimating their effects on crop yield, resilience, and nutritional content. This predictive model then empowers farmers to selectively breed the most promising combinations, paving the way for high-yield, disease-resistant, and nutrient-rich crops.
Machine Learning: Transforming Crop Phenotyping
Machine Learning, a subset of AI, has a pivotal role to play in crop phenotyping, i.e., the process of measuring and analysing plant characteristics. Using algorithms that learn from patterns and data, machine learning can automatically identify plant traits from vast datasets. This automation dramatically increases the speed and accuracy of crop phenotyping, revolutionising traditional breeding practices.
One illuminating case is that of AgroScout, an AgTech company that leverages AI and machine learning to offer early disease and pest detection in crop fields. Its services have led to significant improvements in crop health and yield, showcasing the transformative impact AI can have on agriculture.
AI and Genomic Selection
AI is also contributing profoundly to genomic selection in crop breeding. This is a technique where the total genetic potential of an organism is predicted using genomics data, and AI is dramatically improving its accuracy and efficiency.
Imagine this scenario – a farmer can predict the optimum genomic makeup for a particular environment, weather conditions, or specific pests. With such advancements, we are moving closer to a reality where crops are not just surviving, but thriving in their environments.
Agricultural Robots: The Future of Crop Breeding
AI isn’t only operating behind the scenes in databases and laboratories. It’s also manifesting physically in the form of agricultural robots. Equipped with AI and machine learning capabilities, these robots can carry out tasks like planting, harvesting, and weeding, but they can also help with crop breeding.
These AI-guided robots can pollinate crops, maintain optimal growth conditions, and gather invaluable data about crop growth and health, thereby aiding breeders in developing superior crop varieties.
While these developments might seem like an ambitious projection from a sci-fi novel, remember that companies like John Deere and AgEagle Aerial Systems are already creating AI-powered farm machinery and drones to elevate agricultural practices.
Embrace AI, Empower Agriculture
The agricultural industry stands on the precipice of unprecedented transformation. The AI revolution in crop breeding brings promises of enhanced yield, better nutritional quality, and improved resistance to disease and pests. It’s a thrilling time to be part of this industry that continues to evolve and adapt to new technological landscapes.
Just as 5G networks are transforming communications, AI is redefining the possibilities of agriculture. The future of farming lies in its ability to harness these technological advancements, innovate, and thrive in this brave new world of precision agriculture.
About the Author: Dr Sarah-Jayne Gratton is an award-winning technology evangelist, specialising in emerging technologies and covering trends in artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, agritech, digital transformation and mixed reality. She is the Head of Media for the Fresh Produce Consortium and the Editor of Agritech Future and Fresh Talk Daily publications.