Artificial intelligence: the future of agriculture?

Since technological advances began to fascinate humanity a few decades ago, many have questioned whether these accelerated developments at some point would be able to replace the intervention of man in certain activities that we know today.

This is precisely the starting point of an ambitious project that a group of scientists from Wageningen & Researh University (WUR for its acronym in English) in the Netherlands has been developing since August 14.

The project "Challenge of Autonomous Greenhouses" seeks to mark a milestone in the history of world agronomy, since it aims to demonstrate that it is possible to cultivate with the support of artificial intelligence, completely ruling out human intervention during all stages of the process.

An excerpt from the general objective of the work, released by Dutch media this week, details that "the goal is to convert knowledge about cultivation into algorithms that can allow computers to regulate them automatically in the future, even in places where that knowledge is lacking." ”.

The text also explains that the investigation involved five international teams, without specifying their nationalities. In addition, they comment that the first exploration of the group is done in a cucumber plantation, located in a greenhouse of the university.

"The specialists will have four months to produce a cucumber yield remotely and without human intervention. For this, they will have to use as little water as possible, nutrition and energy, while they get the best performance, "reads another paragraph of the statement.

The challenges

Silke Hemming, head of the Horticultural Technology department at Wageningen & Researh University, explains that the scientists developed their own algorithms and used them to determine certain indicators.

Among them, he adds, are the temperature, the amount of light, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the greenhouses, and various parameters related to the crop, such as the density of the plant and the stem.

Hemming delves into the subject, and argues that in the crops installed a novel system of cameras and sensors, which collects data, and eventually works as a regulator in the climate and fertilization of the greenhouse.

"It should be clear that, to prove the success of the experiment, the participants will not be allowed to enter the greenhouses, unless some other equipment must be installed, but everything is ready," says Silke Hemming.

It emphasizes that with the information that they are receiving, the necessary adjustments in the algorithms will be made, so that the configuration is modified remotely, and the system responds like the brain of a human being, capable of making decisions.

According to Hemming, from the results of the project it will be possible to improve food production in greenhouse horticulture, since this is the beginning of the development of a precise and efficient artificial intelligence.

Regarding the fear that this technology will in fact replace human labor, the Dutch scientist responds that “breeders will benefit from the results of the challenge, as it will allow them to make decisions based on more carefully considered information.”

He adds that the use of artificial intelligence will have an even greater impact globally. «For example, in many countries there is very little knowledge about the production of complex plants. “Artificial intelligence can help people make complicated decisions.”

He insists that for vegetables and fruits to be produced locally with less means, this tool becomes the ideal support.

He also sees it as a higher yield for production, in the face of the growing world population.


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