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AI: The future of farming

AI: The future of farming

Artificial intelligence applications a focus at Precision Ag 201 Webinar

Ryan Ridley

Farmers who were curious about implementing precision ag techniques on their operations tuned in to the Precision Ag 201 Webinar on November 10, the final segment of a two-part webinar series for farmers who may be new to precision agriculture.

The Precision Ag 201 Webinar built on some of the basics discussed at Precision Ag 101 on November 3 but primarily focused on how artificial intelligence and automation will shape the future of farming.

“My research focuses on using artificial intelligence and robotics in precision agriculture,” explained Dr. Xin (Rex) Sun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Agriculture & Biosystems Engineering at North Dakota State University.

“Artificial intelligence is a combination of different technologies together – it involves automation, deep learning, big data, and more – to provide us with a better result.”

The hour-long webinar, led by Dr. Sun and featuring Alex Melnitchouck, Chief Technology Officer at Olds College, covered many topics including artificial intelligence applications in weed management, livestock production, data collection, crop protection and more, with discussions of various research projects Dr. Sun is currently working on in these areas.

The webinar also touched base on the basics of artificial intelligence, which includes input, processor and output components.

Dr. Sun discussed artificial intelligence in contrast to output (also known as data visualization): “Data visualization is very important. If you cannot present your [artificial intelligence] research well to others, I don’t think its valuable – especially in precision agriculture,” he said. He suggested that farmers need to be able to visualize what the data is telling them for it to be useful.

Dr. Sun is currently working on a project with Microsoft’s data visualization platform so that farmers can see research results very clearly and in a user-friendly way.

Those who are interested in that area or work may wish to attend the session by Barney Debnam, Global Agriculture Strategy Lead at Microsoft, who is presenting ‘AI in Agribusiness: Are we in the long rows or short rows?’ on November 19th, as part of the 2020 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase.

Several questions were asked during the question and answer portion of the Precision Ag Webinar, with one attendee asking: What are the biggest policy challenges for government and farm organizations in the precision agriculture sector? (Example: Is data privacy transparency an issue?).

“Data privacy could be very challenging for precision agriculture, especially for researchers who want to analyze the data,” said Dr. Sun.

Melnitchouck added, “I would say that the answer depends on the market because every region has certain challenges. In terms of data privacy, there are many discussions and there is no simple answer.”

Melnitchouck quoted a producer in Canada saying, “What exactly is a company like John Deere going to do with your data? I’m going to tell you what they will do – they will build a better tractor.”



Missed the Precision Ag 101 Webinar? Check out the video here:

Farmers interested in attending the 2020 Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference, should reserve their spot today - registrations are filling fast. To keep the Conference intimate and more conducive to learning and networking, there are a limited number of virtual registrations available, learn more about the upcoming conference on November 17-19.

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