Rolando Grandi

Artificial intelligence goes green

Vertical farms, connected cows, autonomous tractors, drones sprayers … Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping agriculture around the world. Predictive agriculture and smart farming[1] are growing thanks to the proliferation of high-tech intelligent systems and connected solutions that could well help solve a complex equation: feeding the 10 billion earthlings – 80% of whom are city dwellers – who will populate our planet in 2050 while reducing our environmental impact[2].

 Amazing potential

This emerging agricultural revolution is fueled by algorithms and AI is proving to be a tremendous lever for innovation and growth across all sectors of agriculture. High-tech agriculture combines big data, 5G and the Internet of Things to create resilient practices that optimize farmers’ jobs. An example ? A leader in the field of precision positioning, the American company TRIMBLE designs guidance and automation solutions that offer significant productivity gains. These new technologies fueled by AI and robotics are fostering the emergence of precision agriculture, a market with great vitality. Weed drones, connected milking machines, hydroponics[3] are all technologies that could boost the agricultural AI market up to $ 250 billion by 2050[4]. The market for agricultural drones alone is expected to exceed $ 32 billion by 2025[5].

Connected Agriculture 4.0

AI solutions facilitate automation of seed sorting, improve resource management, reduce the use of crop protection products or detect plant water stress using digital sensors. They promote greater control of health management or crop control. Connected solutions from data processing specialist SPLUNK or US giant JOHN DEERE, the inventor of the polished steel moldboard plow, are using big data to save the earth. The Illinois group, for example, recently acquired BLUE RIVER TECHNOLOGIES for $ 305 million to develop sprayers designed to respond instantly to wind changes, and able to divide by 10 the use of herbicides.

Machine learning algorithms also make it possible to predict the evolution of farms according to multiple parameters, and many projects are flourishing in the service of responsible agriculture. This is the case of Digital Urban Farming, an ATOS project near Lyon, or vertical Japanese farms: that of A-PLUS produces 20,000 lettuces a day and should divide the number of operators by 5 compared to a traditional farmhouse. This trend is accelerateing under the effects of climate change, and supported by large groups, such as MICROSOFT or NVIDIA.

Our attention remains focused on those companies that, thanks to their leadership and prodigious ability to innovaate, will continue to feed their growth, helping to make the planet a greener place.

Author: Rolando Grandi, International Equity Manager at La Financière De L’Echiquier

[1] Precision agriculture
[2] FAO estimates 70% increase in food production needed
[3] Soil growing technique
[4] Source: Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research
[5] Source: PwC