It’s a picture we’ve all envisioned. An idyllic farm, nestled in a valley, father spending the day threshing while mother bakes bread and the children play with the dogs inside. It all sounds slow and methodical and peaceful. But the reality is that this is not what farming really is. The fears and risks of farming have kept countless generations on their toes, hoping and praying for a good harvest, year after year. Technology, though, has moved the agriculture industry forward, year after year. From the use of animals, to the growth of the tractor, to the advent of machine enabled planters and threshers, technology has made farm life easier at every turn. Now, computers may well begin to play a major role in farming in the years to come, as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more applicable in managing production and staving off starvation for the burgeoning world populace.

The nature of AI is simple – data analysis through an algorithm that produces a response from a computer that is ‘intelligent’ – that is, not preprogrammed. The goal with AI is to make machines that can, with training, ‘think’ about things, analyze them, and produce a response which is useful. Farming is an area where AI can be radically useful.

AI Tractors

The autonomous car craze is all the rage these days, but the reality of a self driving car is years out. However, with less traffic to worry about and far less complexity of motion, self driving tractors are a powerful tool on a farm. Even with tractors, a farmer is forced to use employees or work countless hours to harvest or seed. But with self-driving tractors, the need for labor is reduced immensely, and farmers can plant, harvest, and deliver crops without having to leave their porch.

AI Commodity Markets

Ask any farmer and they’ll tell you the price of a particular crop can either make or break a year. It’s a struggle, though, because crops have to be planted and grown before a price for the crop is determined. This means that farmers are speculating on the value of a commodity, and then hoping for the best. With AI and better data analytics, however, commodity speculation can be helped, and farmers can be directed toward crops that will return best, given the current rate of growth, and current values. AI can’t predict the future, but it can help to analyze the present.

AI and the Environment

Environmental impacts are a major concern with farming. AI can help to manage the impact of farming on an environment as it can help farmers to control the amounts of input in any given farming scenario. Data analysis can help to make decisions for crop planting, volumes of seed, and types and volumes of other additives. Data analysis through AI can have a profound effect on how environmental concerns are managed.

Overall, AI will continue to have profound impacts on business, and farming is no exception. While the idyllic valley farm may have some staunch believers, AI is turning that farm into a high production, low cost farming machine. This may be what the world needs to sustain the growing number of people on the planet.