7 Shocking Ways AI Is Shaping the Food Growing Industry
Artificial intelligence is a subject that has been shrouded in mystery for years. Although robots are not going to take over any time soon, artificial intelligence is certainly making its mark in many industries. Over the last twenty years, the agricultural industry has seen many changes. You would be surprised to learn how AI is changing the way foods are grown, allowing for a more consistent product without as much human intervention needed.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence, often referred to as machine intelligence, is a subject that intrigues most people. When computers can carry out tasks that would normally require human intervention, this is considered artificial intelligence.
Since John McCarthy first introduced the idea of AI, the world has been waiting for further developments. It has always seemed artificial intelligence would remain a “thing” of the future, but the future is now.
You are likely unaware of the many ways artificial intelligence affects your life. AI has been used in manufacturing for many years, but in the last ten years, its uses are being spread much further. Is it possible computers could be growing the foods you eat every day?
Between 1960 and 2015, agricultural production has tripled. The reason for greater production is due to a huge change in the world’s population. During this 55-year stretch, the population of the world grew from three-million to seven-million.
To keep up with demands, farmers have begun embracing new technology like never before. According to experts, AI has the potential to completely transform the way we think about growing fruits and vegetables. There are so many ways AI is changing farming. As production continues to evolve, you may one day purchase a head of lettuce that has never been touched by human hands.
Vertical Farming Is on the Rise
It is difficult to imagine being able to pick up a fresh pepper at your local supermarket and discover it was only picked an hour ago. Most people purchase produce that has been shipped to their destination from other states or countries. The growing limitations are now being eradicated with vertical farming.
Vertical farming, as its name suggests, is the process of growing fruits and vegetables on vertically inclined shelves. The produce is grown entirely indoors, using artificial sunlight, gases, humidity, and stringent temperature control.
A robotic lens scans the plants as they grow and can identify any potential problems. By scanning a tomato blossom, the AI can determine how long it will take for the tomato to reach vine-ripened maturity.
With vertical farming, much more produce can be grown in one place and the growers are not limited by the seasons. Beautiful tomatoes and peppers can be grown in the dead of winter and these “farms” can rise in urban areas, where the population demands are much greater.
While it might seem like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, there are many high-tech farmers that are embracing new technology. With LED lighting and a little artificial intelligence, farmers can grow produce in season and out of season.
With high-tech greenhouses, the farmers of the future are creating agricultural worthy of the most advanced science projects. They can perfectly manipulate the precise conditions that are needed, without worrying about the weather or the time of year.
LED lighting mimics the rays of the sun and provides the full spectrum of light plants need for healthy growth. In addition to being able to grow crops all year long, LED lights also allow many farmers to eliminate their use of pesticides which is beneficial for everyone. A lack of pesticides produces healthier agriculture and greatly reduces the operating costs of the farmer.
HVAC Technology Allows for Perfect Temperature Control
Did you know tomatoes grow best when the daily temperature is between 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit? What happens if you have a few days of colder weather? This is a question farmers deal with daily, and it is often a struggle to keep their crops flourishing.
Air quality control is a fundamental aspect of growing produce indoors. Most people would be amazed to see AI in action. Robotics are used to perfectly calculate the temperature needs of each fruit or vegetable. From the precise temperature to the exact humidity level, the robotics can take control and ensure each type of produce is being grown in the ideal environment.
Humidity is the enemy when it comes to growing plants indoors. Humidity increases the risks of bacterial and fungal spore growth and can facilitate this growth on the plants. Mold and bacteria can quickly destroy a crop. With AI, human error and the whims of nature do not have any effect on the growth process.
Most people know photosynthesis is an integral part of plant growth. You may not realize photosynthesis is stopped when the ambient temperature of the growing room rises too high or too low. When you think about it, growing a plant is really an amazing and risky process. There is so much at stake. With artificial intelligence, the process of growing plants seems effortless.
Vapor Pressure Deficit
Unless you are a grower, you have likely never thought about vapor pressure deficit and what this means to plant growth. To make the definition as simple as possible, consider the water vapor in the air.
The only way water can remain in the air is in gas form. All gases place a certain amount of pressure on the objects they surround. This is also true of plants. You might think this pressure on the plant is a bad thing, but that is not entirely true.
The pressure of water vapor on the plants is coming from every direction. This pressure helps the plants to retain moisture, instead of losing it through their leaves through evaporation. With smart sensing technology, a form of AI, farmers can perfectly control the water vapor deficit of their crops, so the ideal growing atmosphere is achieved.
With VPD monitoring, water conservation is easily achieved. Everyone knows water conservation is an important topic in the world right now, and it certainly is not a buzzword only. Imagine being able to perfectly control the vapor deficit without any human intervention. This is the talk of the future, only it is happening right now. Times are certainly changing in agriculture.
Traditionally, farmers have to fertilize their soil at certain intervals, depending on the soil type and needs of the plant. Now, many farmers have implemented automated fertigation systems, allowing for greater control and the elimination of human error.
Fertigation is the process of injecting fertilizers into hydroponic growing systems. The fertilization process must be precisely administered for healthy plant growth.
With automated sensors, farmers will know their substrate level of moisture and can even learn the mineral content of their soil. No longer do farmers have to guess when to apply fertilizer and in what ratio. Automated fertigation takes care of the entire process and constantly monitors the substrate for changes that need to be addressed. No human being would have the ability to carry out such intricate processes.
A huge benefit to using automated fertigation is the practical elimination of leaching. When leaching is not taking place, there is much less fertilizer waste. By implementing these sensor systems, farmers can save tons of money because they are not wastefully applying fertilizer to their crops.
Irrigation Systems Are More Advanced
Everyone knows at least something about the old irrigation systems. With the old systems, channels were dug into the earth, and water lines were put in place. A slow drip irrigation system allows the water to slowly be pulled into the soil.
As you have learned from reading, artificial intelligence holds a lot of promise for the agricultural industry, and new advances are being made daily. AI has been able to successfully solve a lot of the real-world problems with irrigation systems.
With special sensors in place, robotics can masterfully sense how much moisture the soil needs and deliver it in precise measurements and on a perfect schedule. Unbelievably, machine learning allows the robotic to learn how the soil is affected when irrigated, so it will become more intuitive over time.
With AI in place, irrigation systems are more responsive and offer farmers the following benefits.
- Helps minimize water usage
- Achieves uniform soil moisture
- Properly manages nutrient loss
It is clear to see that AI is certainly turning the agricultural industry upside down. If you had told farmers one-hundred years ago about the growing methods of today, they would have likely thought you were insane. The benefits to farmers are astronomical, and the human population will certainly also benefit by having access to the fresh fruits and vegetables their bodies need for good health.
Rolling Benches Bring Plants to Manageable Heights
It is back-breaking work to harvest plants. Although machines are taking over the harvesting of many types of agriculture, there is still a need for some human intervention. Rolling benches were developed to transform the way farmers grow their crops.
When plants are placed against the ground, they lose their heat into the earth, making the bottoms of the plants become cooler at night. Since the root systems reach deep into the bottom of the plants, this cooling can have a detrimental effect on the way the plants grow.
Rolling benches lift the crops off the ground and places them at a much more manageable height. Farmers can experience an increased level of work efficiency with less risk of injury. Rolling benches also free up walking space, allowing indoor farmers to grow many more plants than they would be able to with ground beds.
When it comes time for harvest, rolling benches allow for a much greater yield per square foot. With these benches, farmers have the option of customizing the height, so they can more comfortably work their growing rooms and increase their profits.
With the rolling benches positioned higher above the ground, there is much less heat loss and the option of placing radiant bench heating systems directly under the plants. These heating systems offer warmth to the plant’s root systems where it is needed most.
Rolling benches can also be combined with flood and drain tabletops. Flood and drain tabletops catch all the water and nutrient runoff, so they can be reused. When rolling benches are coupled with AI sensors and robotics, the result is limitless growing potential with much less waste and much higher yields than could ever be produced with outdated methods of farming.
New AI Developments Continue to Rise
While some farmers were not too quick to embrace modern means of growing plants, many have now seen the fruits of its labor and feel the benefits far outweigh the initial costs. Artificial intelligence is far-reaching in design and scope and is truly transforming the way farmers approach their growing seasons.
Outdated methods may still be viable for smaller farmers, but commercial farmers have had no choice but to embrace artificial intelligence and take advantage of all it offers. From being able to precisely predict which crops will be able to deliver the highest yields, to being able to detect pests without human intervention, AI certainly has a needful place in agriculture today and in well into the future.
Many people believe artificial intelligence will be able to solve the biggest challenges humanity will face from now until 2050 which will lead to the need for greater amounts of food worldwide. As changes take place, it will be interesting to see how the agricultural industry responds.
Right now, climate change is a hot topic across the world. With AI and indoor growing practices, climate change will no longer have a hold around the throat of the agricultural industry and demand will be met worldwide, no matter the time of year.
It is exciting to see the changes that are taking place in the agricultural industry. No, robots are not taking over our farming, but AI is certainly playing a roll in producing the highest quality produce without shortages. Now, you will never look at that beautiful supermarket tomato the same way.