Generations of farmers have relied on knowledge and family expertise to grow food, but the sector is set for a surge of disruption at the hands of made-in-Canada artificial intelligence-powered systems.
Investment in artificial intelligence is growing in Canada. In 2017, venture capital investment in AI nearly doubled - to $12 billion. And looking at the agriculture sector, AI is helping farmers to increase crop yields, save costs and reduce environmental damages.
How is this possible? For generations, farmers have relied on their own knowledge of the land and past experience to get the most profit from their farms, regardless of if they had a dairy or raised food crops. With the new technologies available today, farmers can now target their use of fertilizers or herbicides, saving money and minimizing environmental damage.
With AI, dairy farmers now have the option of getting accurate information on the levels of progesterone in milk, providing them with reliable data on when a cow is in heat and the optimum time to inseminate.
The technology can enhance farming practices, manage mastitis, reduce unnecessary antibiotic usage, and virtually eliminate the addition of low-quality, low-fat milk into bulk storage tanks.
SomaDetect - Technology for the dairy industry
Fredericton, New Brunswick-based SomaDetect, Inc. was founded in 2016 by Bethany Deshpande and her husband and business partner, Nicholas Clermont. In October 2017, the fledgling company was the $1 million grand prize winner of the fourth annual 43North competition, held in Buffalo, New York.
The technology allows dairy farmers to measure major indicators of milk quality and herd health, directly in the milking line. SomaDetect's technology does not require added chores or the use of chemicals, cartridges, or lost milk - It's all automatic.
SomaDetect sensors are installed at each milking stall and will identify each cow, test their milk and quickly provide farmers an array of metrics such as protein and fat counts, indicators of disease, hormones (progesterone) that manage reproduction and antibiotic residuals.
The company is now preparing to deliver commercial systems this fall that will test milk and use AI to maximize a dairy farmer's profitability through the "Internet of Cows."
"We are in a fourth revolution in agriculture and AI is absolutely critical," said co-founder Bethany Deshpande. Deshpande points out that the technology is at an early stage - and farmers are just beginning to understand the power and full potential of AI.
"A lot of farmers have been demanding better technology, demanding better products for a long time and I think AI is a huge part of how they're going to get that."
Motorleaf - AI for greenhouse and indoor operators
Founded in 2015 by Alastair Monk and Ramen Dutta, Montreal, Quebec-based Motorleaf, Inc. has developed a system that acquires data from indoor growing operations and applies artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to identify growing patterns.
The Motorleaf system helps growers produce more, and a better quality product; by automatically adjusting to the needs of the crop. The company builds separate components, each of which has a specific set of functions. They can operate separately, or if you add onto the MotorLeaf HEART - operate as a larger whole.
The technology has already been proven in vegetable production operations. California greenhouse SunSelect used Motorleaf’s technology in a trial that led to a 50-percent reduction in yield prediction error in tomatoes. These results were enough for SunSelect to adopt Motorleaf’s algorithms after a short trial.
According to the Motorleaf website, "The Heart is the center of Motorleaf’s monitoring and automation system. It can operate separately to monitor air temperature, relative humidity, and light levels and it can connect to the Powerleaf, Droplet, Driplet, Space Sensor and Space Sensor Plus to monitor and control what’s important."
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