How AI could help farming become more efficient and sustainable

Jun 18, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing industries across Canada and the world, and agriculture is no exception. Post-secondary institutions and innovative farms are rapidly working to apply AI to food system challenges from labour shortages to climate change.

At some farms, AI-powered sensors are already being used optimize operations such as lighting, irrigation, and harvest timing, leading to increased yields and reduced resource usage. AI is also advancing precision agriculture, where it can help make complex decisions traditionally handled by humans, such as adjusting water and fertilizer levels.

At a smart farm at Olds College, Felippe Karp is researching how to develop standards for data collection and processing to build AI models.

AI models are only as good as their data sets, explained Mr. Karp, a research associate at the college and a PhD candidate in bioresource engineering at McGill University. His focus right now is on measuring and predicting variability of soil nutrients.

“With this data set, we trained an artificial-intelligence model … and used that to predict the availability of nutrients in the soil.”

Some say farmers need to be better incentivized to share their data in order to make the technology better.

Farmers can be resistant to sharing their own data, Mr. Karp said: “That’s one of the challenges we face when we talk about developing more complex models.”

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