Artificial Intelligence: Endgame for Farming or Fresh Start?

Artificial Intelligence: Endgame for Farming or Fresh Start?

Artificial intelligence eye piece staring over a farm

In case you haven’t noticed, human level machine intelligence is already here.

The end of the world is coming … eventually. Shortly before his death last year, famed physicist Stephen Hawking left us with several rather grim predictions for the future of Earth and life on it. At the top of his list was the takeover of artificial intelligence (AI). In an interview with Wired, he was quoted as follows: “We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development, but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.”

Preceding those prophetic points, Hawking led off the AI topic by simply saying, “The genie is out of the bottle.” Indeed. And farmers know this well. Advancements in agriculture technology continue to crop up at a tremendous rate with promise of solutions to critical challenges such as a dwindling farm workforce.

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In an article recently published in the journal Science Robotics, UF/IFAS researchers Senthold Asseng and Frank Asche contend robots and information technology will be the rule and not the exception on farms in the coming years. Akin to Hawking’s aforementioned genie in a bottle, Asseng and Asche point to established features like GPS-guided autosteer tractors on the ground and drones in the air already making an impact. But more is to come — much more.

Harvest CROO Robotics’ automated strawberry harvester is an example of what the future could look like in farm fields. The Plant City, FL-based developers have been fine-tuning the autonomous harvester and are now putting the machine to work. The results speak for themselves. It can pick up to five berries per second, supplanting as many as 30 workers, according to Gary Wishnatzki, Owner of Wish Farms and primary stakeholder in Harvest CROO Robotics. Like anything new, glitches are still being ironed out, but momentum is on their side. Add the AI factor to this kind of ag tech, and the machines will continue to learn, adapt, get faster, stronger, and overtake … er, overcome.

Precision Ag Specialty Crops logoSo, if robots are coming to take on the heavy lifting of life on farms, what will be left for us humans to do? “The farmers of the future are likely to be data scientists, programmers, and robot wranglers,” Asseng and Asche note.

Get ready to saddle up and perhaps take a class on computer coding. It wouldn’t hurt. The future is here with every new day.