Artificial Intelligence for future farming


Prof Manish Kr Sharma & Shavi Gupta

Artificial Intelligence is extending its footprints in almost every nook and corner of the scientific research whereby its tremendous calibre and path breaking operational driver has exposed almost every arena to a new light. Generally speaking, Artificial Intelligence is a new and robust substitute to almost every conventional method which otherwise lacks expertise to resolve, handle and tackle the situations in possible adequate manner. It has the potential to revolutionize and metamorphose science and technology to new attire. Amid use and deployment of Artificial Intelligence in almost every arena, how can someone forget to mention the essence of Artificial Intelligence in the field of Agriculture? Precisely speaking, more than one half of the population of India directly depends upon farming and agriculture as their core livelihood in as much as the matter does not limit to the factum of livelihood only but it obviously feeds a nation for its survival. Even the global population is increasing tremendously and with this increase the demand of food and employment is also increasing. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the world population will expand by another 2.1 billion in 2050, but land surface under cultivation will contribute to only 4.2 percent of the total land surface at that time. As we know that agriculture faces multiple challenges like high dependence on monsoon, resource intensiveness – heavy use of resources (water, inorganic fertilisers and pesticides), degradation of land and loss of soil fertility, and low per hectare yield, among others. To overcome the aforesaid challenges in agriculture this is the time to opt for precision farming using Artificial Intelligence methods in order to meet the shooting demands of the expanding population. Since Artificial Intelligence methods support decision-making systems in agriculture, helps in optimizing storage and transport processes, and make it possible to predict the costs incurred depending on the chosen direction of management. So, in the field of agriculture we need more effective farming methods which can be achieved by utilizing recent technical developments and solutions to present farming bottlenecks.

Artificial Intelligence in agriculture has brought an agriculture revolution. Artificial Intelligence can be used in the field of agriculture for challenges such as for right time of sowing, irrigation, weeding, spraying, harvesting with the help of sensors and other means embedded in robots and drones. Direct deployment of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Intelligence within the farming sector may be the acme of a paradigm change in how farming is now performed. Artificial Intelligence having one of its prodigious & desperate character has its remarkable influence in squaring up the aforesaid challenges in the agriculture and even tends to take the same to inexplicable heights. In other words, Artificial intelligence in agriculture is not only helping farmers to automate their farming but also shifts to precise cultivation for higher crop yield and better quality while using fewer resources. So, Artificial Intelligence can play a catalytic role in creating awareness and also increases the knowledge and efficiency of a farmer. This will help in improving the crop yield from various factors like the climate changes, population growth, employment issues and food security problems. In this context, Artificial Intelligence can give rise to precision farming which is all about “Right Place, Right Time and Right Products”. Even a number of start-ups have been launched based on Artificial intelligence in the field of agriculture like Blue River Technology, FarmBot, Prospera, Fasal, OneSoil, Cropin and many more.
Weather is a paramount challenge as it plays a very important role in agriculture and it is difficult for the farmers to take the right decision for harvesting, sowing seeds, and soil preparation due to climate change. But with the help of Artificial intelligence, weather forecasted data helps the farmers to have information on weather analysis, and accordingly, they can plan for the type of crop to grow, seeds to sow, and harvesting of the crop. When the crop is harvested at right time then with the help of price forecasting, farmers can get a better idea about the price of crops for the next few weeks, which can help them to get maximum profit. By implementing such practice helps to make a smart decision on time. After weather forecasting the preparation of soil is very important before sowing the seeds. The preparation of soil depends on various factors like water content, nutrients present in soil and pH of soil. For preparing the soil, the farmers have to consider two main factors namely soil management and irrigation management. Because soil and irrigation management are critical issues in the arena of agriculture as these two factors leads quality degradation of a crop. In soil management, AI techniques are widely used to detect and adjust soil parameters that provide a favourable environment for agricultural growth. To manage the soil properly there is an agricultural start-up InCeres which has developed an app that can predict soil quality and fertility based on soil application and nutrient uptake. The analysis is based on data on the chemical composition of the soil, weather conditions, crop types, and satellite images showing plant growth rates. Irrigation is one of the most labour-intensive processes in farming. To subjugate the problem of irrigation, Artificial Intelligence can train machines that are aware of historical weather pattern, soil quality and kind of crops to be grown, so that machines can automate irrigation and increase overall yield. Since, nearly 70 percent of the world’s fresh water resource is utilized for irrigation so, automation irrigation through Artificial Intelligence can conserve water and benefit farmers in managing their water problems.
For overall crop management, Remote Sensing one of the foremost techniques of Artificial Intelligence is used. Remote Sensing techniques along with hyper spectral imaging and 3D laser scanning are essential to build crop metrics across thousands of acres. It has the potential to bring in a revolutionary change in terms of how farmlands are monitored by farmers both from time and effort perspective. This technology will also be used to monitor crops along their entire lifecycle including report generation in case of anomalies.
For good yield of a crop, Artificial Intelligence helps to determine the quality of crop which widely depends on the type of soil and nutrition of the soil. But with the increasing rate of deforestation, the soil quality is degrading day by day, and it is hard to determine it. To resolve this issue, Artificial Intelligence has come up with a new application called Plantix. It was developed by PEAT to identify the deficiencies in soil, including plant pests and diseases. With the help of this application, farmers can get an idea to use better fertilizer which can improve the harvest quality. In this app, AI’s image recognition technology is used by which farmers can capture the images of plants and get information about the quality of crop.
In addition to the other challenges in the field of agriculture, weeds consist one of the major threats to all agricultural activities and also affect the crop yield. To tackle this concern, Artificial Intelligence helps in decreasing the weeds on the farm as it manages weeds by implementing computer vision, robotics, and machine learning which gathers data to keep a check on the weed thereby helping the farmers to spray chemicals only where the weeds are present and reduce the usage of the chemical spraying an entire field. Ultimately, it reduces the weeds efficiently and also reduce use of herbicide in the field comparatively the volume of chemicals normally sprayed. Hortibot is one of the examples used for removing weeds from the farm. In conjunction with other challenges faced by farmers, crop diseases are also a major source of concern for farmers. Detection of disease in a crop can be achieved through Artificial intelligence using the concept of image sensing and analysis to make sure that the plant leaf images are segmented into surface areas like background, diseased area, and non-diseased area of the leaf. The infected or diseased area is then harvested and sent to the laboratory for further diagnosis. It also helps in pest identification, nutrient deficiency recognition and more. However, besides the satisfaction drawn by the AI in plethora of fields, its application as a tool is another crucial aspect to be pondered upon. The challenges neutralized by the Artificial intelligence are indeed co-terminus with the challenges posed by Artificial intelligence vis-à-vis its operation and sufficient expertise required to drive the same for obtaining procedural results. In other words, possessing the qualitative aptitude to deploy and use the Artificial intelligence is purely a distinctive and parallel subject which needs equal attention in as much as a vehicle without its driver is no less a fiction. Moreover, since Artificial intelligence has attributed sincerely to the progressive research and opened new doors for innovation, a multi-dimensional approach as to its different aspects is a core mantra for its effective and robust implementation. Furthermore, imparting skills & knowledge to take advantage of AI is the need of hour which shall, besides replacing traditional methods, help in capacity building and derive best of the results and utility. Artificial Intelligence is a catalyst having tremendous capability to throttle the technological pace, however its planned & organized application at parlance with emotional intelligence would be a decisive factor to procure the desirable outcomes.

(The authors are working as Head and Research Scholar in Division of Statistics & Computer Science, SKUAST-J).