Artificial Intelligence: A More Precise Green Revolution

The next revolution in precision agriculture has arrived.  New technology is customizing the already efficient gains in modern agriculture to move to individual plant and animal precision management.  In crop production, this exciting development is being made possible by applying the advanced technology of artificial intelligence to farming equipment by industry leaders such as John Deere.

John Deere Labs opened its office in San Francisco in the spring of 2017 to focus on high technology ventures and product development.  Shortly thereafter it acquired Blue River Technology, a startup with computer vision and machine learning technology that can identify weeds, making it possible to spray herbicides only where needed.

See and Spray technology, developed by John Deere and Blue River Technology, uses machine learning to identify weeds and spray chemicals only where needed.

By using computer vision and machine learning technologies, machinery can be “trained” to recognize harmful weeds that require a precise dose of herbicide, while allowing other crops around the weed to avoid spraying. This “see and spray” technology has the potential to reduce herbicide applications by up to 95 percent, avoiding the need to spray an entire field and reducing costs and environmental impact.

Similar machine learning can be programmed for targeted applications of fertilizers and irrigation and to detect disease, yield, and quality of crops and soils. The technology will be especially helpful to inform irrigation decisions and water management in water-scarce regions. New applications are also being test to assist with customized livestock management,  improving animal health and well-being.  A comprehensive review of machine learning and artificial intelligence in agriculture outlines the benefits this emerging technology brings to farmers, the environment and the agri-food system.

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