By: Shane Thomas, Global Digital Ag lead
The association many of us make with artificial intelligence (AI) is Terminator. This popular 1984 movie had Arnold Schwarzenegger going back in time to tackle an AI machine from taking over the world. Packed with action, the movie became an instant classic, and because of the relevance of AI it gets mentioned often to this day. While for The Terminator, AI involved significantly more gunshots, there is still one underlying theme between us at Farmers Edge and him. Read on to find out why!
Today, AI is an often talked about topic in almost every industry. The concept itself can be intimidating to us; it involves computers, algorithms, models, big data, math…all the stuff many of us in agriculture tend to avoid! But is it really all that scary? And the billion-dollar question, is it actually relevant to agriculture today? Let’s dig into both and find out plus learn how we are so much like the Terminator himself!
What is Artificial Intelligence?
In the simplest of terms, artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. This can be things like learning or self-correction – which is referred to as machine learning in the artificial intelligence world, or it can even be reasoning where a mathematical formula “thinks” through the best possible outcome based on how it was programmed. This is done through algorithms, which are a set of precise steps required for the computer to solve a problem or reach a goal.
Pretty straight forward, right? So how does this relate to farming?
In farming, we produce a lot of data and data points; in agronomy, we deal with yield, quality, variety type, soil data and more. With equipment and weather, we get speed, fuel usage, RPM, moisture, wind, and humidity data…the list could go on. But what this data does is enables us to apply some tools from artificial intelligence to provide us with insight and predictions into when there may be anomalies like stressed areas of a field, or a higher likelihood of certain diseases, such as sclerotinia in canola.
How do Farmers Edge AI-Driven Tools Help Farmers Today?
AI powers many components of our suite of digital tools, enabling our customers more efficiency, better yields and higher profits. There is often commentary that there hasn’t been any AI used beneficially in agriculture today, but at Farmers Edge, we use AI every single day to help our farm customers across the globe make more profitable decisions every year. Here are just a few examples.
Crop Health Change Maps (CHCM)
Time is valuable. Knowing when to scout and where to scout can have a host of benefits to farmers and agronomists.
The Crop Health Change Maps are a proprietary tool that takes the most recent NDVI image and the current NDVI image and applies an algorithm across them to identify if there has been a significant change in growth (negatively or positively) in a specific area of a field from the most recent image to the current image. If there has been a change, the algorithm identifies the location and sends an email notification to the farmer and their agronomist with access to a map detailing the specific areas. This means imagery can now identify problems while customers or agronomists are not in the field and can save them time to prioritize their days or weeks based on when alerts come in! Even better is how imagery can save farmers money by catching in-season concerns like cutworms or even resistant wild oat misses as many of our customers have discovered. Not only does this save time and money in-season, but it is also beneficial for the following years.
Crop and Pest Modeling
The growing season is busy for farmers and that means you need all the tools you can to stay on top of spraying crops in-season. Because of this we have created tools that alert you when your crop is at a pertinent growth stage or an insect or disease timing is about to occur, plus a risk assessment of the latter – again an AI-driven insight!
Understanding the stage of crops and pest risks can help to line up custom applicators, plan your week, plan your crop scout and help ensure you are making the right decision as to when and if to spray products like herbicides and fungicides!
Virtual Soil Tests
Soil testing is one of the best ways to invest dollars in any farm operation. It helps you understand your soil and makes the right choices when it comes to cropping and fertility for the coming season. But soil testing can be frustrating! While we still do millions of soil tests per year (literally), we have actively created a virtual soil test, or VST, through machine learning to help make sure when you work with us on a variable rate (VR) you have the highest-producing and least expensive VR offering on the market getting you a superior ROI.
A very exciting part of AI is one use case coming soon at Farmers Edge: Yield Prediction. With our field-centric weather and soil moisture insights, we can accurately predict yields in all major crops 9 months out! As we get closer to the harvest date the accuracy constantly improves. But the implications for farmers are huge: crop input purchasing planning, crop insurance decisions, forward contracting decisions, budgeting and more. This is an exciting new tool that Farmers Edge will be launching in the North American market soon!
So now you are wondering…how on earth do you have anything in common with The Terminator? The reality is the Terminator tackled the challenges of AI, and so did we! We took problems and challenges that we thought to be impossible to do, flipped them on their heads, and created tools that in the end help make farmers more profitable and more successful! While we didn’t save lives like the Terminator, we help farm customers make more profitable decisions year in and year out.