It’s happening right before our eyes — robots have submitted their resumes and are taking over human jobs. Robotics is certainly the change that we can neither deny nor refuse, the very next thing in technology.
The effect of this “next level” is not limited to any industry. Apart from the threat it poses to human labor, which might imply job loss for many, these machines serve to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of processes and products, reduce lag time and increase output.
This is particularly true for the agricultural industry. With vertical farming came the use of controlled-environment area (CEA) technology for growing food. The phenomenon of uncontrollable weather and farming conditions received a solution with this technology-powered innovation. Skyscrapers, hitherto used or abandoned warehouses, and shipping containers were transformed into farmlands.
Within this farmland, the environment is controlled and techniques similar to greenhouses adopted. The augmenting of natural light with artificial lighting is not uncommon here. Most recently, LED lights are made to mimic sunlight for the purpose of growing foods. Call it a sneak peek into the future; below are three ways technology is changing food growing today.
1. Surprise technological advancements
We live in the computer age, and computer-powered machines are the new labor force. Tasks that depend solely on human labor are reducing by the day. We’re looking at times when tractors and other farm machines drive themselves, and nothing is done the same way anymore. Over the last twenty years, the agricultural industry has experienced tremendous changes; you would be surprised to learn shocking ways AI is shaping the food growing industry.
This is good news, as machine intelligence is sure to condense the inefficiencies related to human labor. It’s amazing how these technological advancements are running on auto-update even in the agricultural sector.
With vertical farming, urban areas don’t have to depend on rural farmers for their entire food consumption. While the former lacks the large expanse of land for farming, they can utilize the spaces in her high-rise building, abandoned containers or simply create some, to grow her food.
The lag time wasted on irrigation and fertilization at different times has been collapsed into fertigation, which is a process that combines fertilization and irrigation. Fertilizer is added into an irrigation system, and is most commonly used by commercial growers.
2. Weed control made easy
For small farms, human effort is effective for weed control. This is because of the time given to “seeing” and eliminating weeds across the farmland. Large scale food growing cannot afford the time and resources needed to pull it off. Hence, the use of herbicides and the devising of machines to aid in spraying.
Regular spraying leaves a lot of unnecessary herbicides lying around on the farm, which is both a waste of resources and labor effort squandered. The solution would be a weed-control process that targets the weeds alone, is fast, efficient, and has no effect on the farm yield.
With the advent of the see and spray machines, computer vision and machine learning are combined to redefine weed control. The see and spray smart machine is the new way to control weed, as it jettisons 90% of the herbicide used while making sure weeds are eliminated. It comes with a “sense and a decide” function that sees every plant and decides the appropriate treatment for them, while the robotic nozzles target unwanted weeds in real-time as the machine drives through.
3. Robotic plant grafting and agricultural drones
Artificial Intelligence is all about speed, efficacy and convenience. With AI, once-stressful tasks are handled by robots. According to this report, vegetable expert Richard Hassell led a team of scientists at Clemson University’s Coastal Research and Education Center who unveiled a robotic system that grafts disease-resistant roots to robust plant tops as quickly as you can say chop-chop.
On the other hand, agricultural drones allow farmers and the drone pilots that operate them to increase efficiency in certain aspects of the farming process, from crop monitoring to planting, livestock management, crop spraying, irrigation mapping and more. These drones are useful for land scouting, spot treating of plants and general farm management.
Precision agriculture seeks to use new technologies to increase crop yields and profitability while lowering the levels of traditional inputs needed to grow crops (land, water, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides).
In conclusion, we can choose to either focus on the potential human job loss that this future implies, or we can embrace the change. The fact is, this is the future of food growing, and artificial intelligence is driving it.