How AI is reshaping global food systems

This is a guest post by Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of Cropin

In an era where technological advancements have revolutionised various industries, it is disheartening to witness the persistence of hunger on a global scale. The United Nations’ State of food security and nutrition in the world 2023 report reveals a sad reality: 735 million people are currently facing hunger, highlighting a significant increase from 613 million in 2019. The report also shed light on a deeply concerning fact: In 2022, a staggering 2.4 billion people, predominantly women and individuals residing in rural areas, were deprived of consistent access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food throughout the year. As we stand at the cusp of a new agricultural revolution, let me evaluate the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in reshaping global food systems and accelerating Agriculture 4.0.

Despite being the oldest organised industry segment, agriculture still needs to catch up in embracing digitalisation, compared to many other industries. The agriculture sector is critical for human existence and is the largest job creator, particularly in developing regions of Asia, South America, and Africa. However, the current state of global hunger calls for urgent action. We take pride in technological advancements across various sectors, yet we struggle to feed hungry mouths.

Emergence of an era of AI-enabled food system

Amid these challenges, AI emerges as a ray of hope for the global food system. AI is poised to become a game-changer with the potential to transform traditional agriculture. By harnessing AI-enabled solutions, we can address the industry’s critical issues and lay the foundation for a sustainable and efficient food system.

The emergence of plot-level intelligence innovations represents a crucial solution for agribusinesses. Through AI-powered crop and farm intelligence solutions, deep learning models can analyse historical data, satellite imagery, weather insights, and field data to provide risk mitigation and yield forecasting. This enables farmers and agribusinesses to manage efficient plot-level crop health, yield optimisation, irrigation management, and harvest window advisory.

The other critical aspect is generative AI. Such evolving models are revolutionising service offerings in the agriculture technology space. For example, by marrying geoscience, remote sensing, agri-science, digitalisation, and AI innovation, we can overcome challenges posed by corrupted cloudy optical scenes in satellite monitoring. Today, technology empowers us to accurately predict and evaluate crop conditions through cutting-edge generative AI innovations such as “cloud masking”, enabling farmers and agribusinesses to make data-driven decisions, optimise resources, and enhance productivity and profitability.

One noteworthy deployment is our collaboration with PepsiCo where we unveiled a groundbreaking crop and plot-level predictive intelligence model to empower potato farmers. We revolutionised potato farming by leveraging advanced technologies, data-driven insights, and AI models specifically designed for agriculture. The predictive intelligence model, customised for potato varieties and locations, facilitated crop stage identification, crop health monitoring, and disease warnings based on weather conditions and historical patterns. This AI-driven solution optimised farm management, maximised productivity, enabled efficient procurement planning, and ensured a reliable supply of high-quality potato production.

The journey towards Agriculture 4.0

The progress made by the agritech industry in recent years has been remarkable, transitioning from crop monitoring to hyper-scale digitalisation. However, integrating generative AI and intelligence solutions will be crucial in the next transformation phase. This marks the acceleration of Agriculture 4.0, also known as the fourth agricultural revolution, which is still in its early stages.

As someone deeply immersed in the agritech sector, I firmly believe that this decade will witness the dominance of smart farming or precision agriculture, with AI playing a pivotal role. The early adopters in many markets have already set the pace, and we anticipate rapid catch-up by the remaining regions. The AI hype in agriculture is not a passing trend but a significant development that will reshape the 21st-century food system.

The convergence of AI and agriculture holds immense promise as the world faces significant challenges in eradicating hunger and building a sustainable food system. By leveraging AI technologies, we can unlock the real potential of Agriculture 4.0, ushering in an era of sustainable and data-driven food production. Governments, agribusinesses, and development agencies must embrace digital transformation and leverage AI solutions to address global food crises. Nutritious food is not a luxury but a fundamental right for every individual on this planet.

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