From Robot to Supermarket

From Robot to Supermarket

Abby Collins, Staff Writer

100 years ago, the earth’s population was measured at 1.75 billion people. Today, 7.5 billion people call the same beautiful planet their home. With the exponential growth of population and the drastic decline in arable land, the world of agricultural science has been challenged to feed the population. However, as humans do when presented with a problem, they develop technologies to overcome.

In the 1950s, after a struggle to find a solution that would save the future of the human race, agricultural scientists introduced a new age. It implemented an industrial approach to agriculture, which included growing high-yield crops, using synthetic fertilizers for growth, and developing irrigation technology. This era of increasing food production was known as the Green Revolution, and “it saved an estimated 1 million people from starvation.”

However, in recent years, the Green Revolution has been proven unsustainable. It left behind “…a culture of pesticides, reduced agricultural biodiversity, and overuse of chemical fertilizers that deplete the soil and poison waterways” (Snow 4). Clearly, its damage to the environment is significant; the methods of the Green Revolution were never meant to be used in the long term. In fact, “[farmers] were supposed to transition back to organic… It just never happened because increased yields generated by industrial-scale farming put pressure on smaller farms to follow suit” (Snow 5).

In response, research facilities have resorted to artificial intelligence in an effort to return our world to more sustainable farming. According to Jackie Snow of NOVA, the Wageningen University and Research, located in the Netherlands, has conducted tests proving that AI might just meet that goal. Recently at WUR, “…Five teams of A.I. researchers and biologists competed in growing cucumbers… Each team trained its own algorithm…and kept an eye on their crops with sensors and cameras, collecting data and tweaking their algorithms as needed” (Snow 7). This experiment led to new discoveries that have brightened the future for sustainable agriculture. The quality and costs of agriculture can even be improved; scientists have the potential to change how indoor crops are grown, allowing crops to be grown closer to urban areas.

In addition, Snow provides insight to how A.I. can be used in typical farming. For example, technologies have provided algorithms to diagnose and reduce pest issues, which has been proven to significantly reduce the amount of crops deaths.  Farmers with more control over their crops’ conditions, therefore, will resort to using pesticides less often.

Given that the use of robots has been able to produce 20 times more crops and has used 92% less water than typical farming, A.I. can become the new brains of agriculture. A new revolution is on the rise as artificial intelligence takes charge of feeding the population. This time, it is one that will leave our planet in good shape for generations to come.

 

 

 

Snow, Jackie. “Does AI Hold the Key to a New and Improved ‘Green Revolution’ in Agriculture?.” PBS NOVA, 19 Feb. 2019,  
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/does-ai-hold-key-to-new-green-revolution-in-agriculture/. Accessed 29 Feb. 2019.