The farming industry is undergoing a digital revolution, says Dr. Gajendra Pratap Singh, Principal Investigator and Scientific Director at Disruptive & Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision (DiSTAP) at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise. “Thanks to the large-scale availability of sensors, cameras and other mobile and computing technologies that we could only dream of in the past, growers have great amounts of data at their disposal,” he told FreshPlaza.
In Dr. Singh’s view, there are three main components that are causing the digital revolution in agriculture. Firstly, there is the availability of affordable and portable sensors, that enable growers to monitor their crops more closely. Secondly, communication technology has allowed growers to be in closer contact with each other and with suppliers. But most of all, the massive availability of data analytics that the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology allows for is helping to make smart decisions on time and increase productivity.
“AI technologies allow real-time interpretation of crop health data obtained from field sensors. Sensors in irrigation systems have been designed to provide water only when no rain is forecast, just to give one example. This both saves water and improves crop yield,” Dr. Singh explains.
The wealth of useful information that new technologies provide can also be used to breed resilient crops to withstand plant diseases. “In my view, AI technologies combined with sensor and mobile communication technologies have the potential to empower farmers like never before in history,” he said. “This way, the huge amounts of data obtained from plants using novel sensors can help to increase farm productivity, develop new heat-tolerant varieties of crops, and to curtail the predicted food shortage due to climate change and population increase.”