How Machine Learning in Agriculture is Changing the Industry

Posted by Steve Rao On December 18, 2018

How Machine Learning in Agriculture is Changing the Industry

We know computers are getting smarter. And we know that these smart computers are becoming much more prevalent in agriculture. But are you fully aware of how machine learning in agriculture is impacting the industry?

Machine learning is a branch of computer science in which engineers teach a computer to recognize patterns on its own. A computer that “learns” this way develops new rules for understanding the world, allowing it to discover secrets in data without being directly programmed where to look.

See It, Sort It

This technology is being used in a lot of interesting ways – surely you’ve seen those psychedelic images with fish in the sky and puppy faces in the trees. Computer-generated paintings may just be a fun tech toy, but they relate to one way machine learning may shape the future of the ag industry.

No matter its size, a farm must sort its produce according to a set of criteria – size, appearance, health – to determine whether and where to sell. This can take a lot of labor as workers inspect pieces with their own eyes. What if a machine could learn what quality produce looks like and sort it without human direction? Researchers are working on systems that do just that for, say, cucumbers in Japan.

Big Data Can Be Even Smarter

Big data is big business in the ag sector, but it could be even smarter. With all the individual pieces of information available on everything from soil chemistry to weather patterns, it’s getting harder and harder to dig through it all to get to anything meaningful. Of course, this is exactly the kind of problem machine learning is built to solve.

For example, it may be possible to use machine learning to make more accurate predictions of crop yields. A company called Descartes Labs is using large numbers of very small satellites to take pictures of the Earth at resolutions 4 to 10 times finer than the government. Combining all this information with machine learning techniques that can actually tell from space where crops are healthiest on the ground, Descartes produces estimates of corn yields that rival those of the USDA.

With data become ever more important to the ag industry, it’s also becoming more important to ag marketing. Whereas farmers want to know as much as they can about their crops, marketers need to know as much as they can about their prospects. Farm Market iD provides the most reliable, richest data about farm customers. Contact us to learn more.

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