Population of the world is increasing enormously and predicted to be approximately 10 billion by 2050 that will consequence in increased demand for food and employment. Agriculture exhibits a substantial role in economic sector. In Pakistan, the agriculture holds a share of 19.2% in GDP and engages 38.5% of the country’s workforce as their employment. More than 65-70% of the country population depends upon agriculture directly or indirectly for its livelihood.

By Dr. Tahira Tabassum1, Dr. Ali Zohaib2, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Wajid1, Dr. Adeeb Baber1 and Dr. Fouzia Tanvir1

The traditional farming methods being utilized by farmers are not adequate enough to meet the food requirements; therefore, demanding the automation in agriculture is of main concern and an emerging subject all around the world. Adoption of new and automated technologies such as “Artificial Intelligence” is the need of modern era. These newer methods could satisfy the food demands and offer employment opportunities to the billions of people.

Artificial intelligence is an emerging tool in the field of agriculture. Artificial intelligence based machines and equipment have taken the present agricultural system to a distinct level. The use of artificial intelligence in the field of agriculture has led to an agricultural revolution. This technology has enabled the growers to protect their crop yield from diverse factors such as climate change, population overgrowth, and issues related to unemployment and food security. The cutting edge technologies of automated systems such as agricultural robotics and drones have made a remarkable impact on agro-based sector and improved the real time monitoring, harvesting, and processing and marketing the crops. Several hi-tech computer-based systems have been developed to determine different important parameters viz. weed detection, insect pests and diseases identification, determination of crop yield and quality etc. These technologies save excessive use of water and pesticides, maintain soil fertility, help efficient utilization of man power, and improve the productivity and quality.

Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

            Artificial intelligence finds many applications in the agriculture. Some of the important agro-based applications of artificial intelligence are being described in the following section.

  1. Water is essential component for crop production and artificial intelligence helps in efficient water management. The smart irrigation technology has been devised to enhance the productivity without involving the large number of man power through detection of soil moisture level, soil temperature, nutrient and organic matter content, and weather forecast. Automatic plant irrigator is implanted within field by using wireless technology for management of drip irrigation and ensures the efficient use of water.
  2. Chemical fertilizers being an important input in crop production are becoming expensive and environmentally hazardous thereby needing attention for their efficient management. Fertilizers increase the productivity of crops along with fertility improvement. Efficiency of fertilizers can be increased through advanced methods of fertilizers application. Devices like pH meter and fertility meter are set up in field to find out the fertility status of soil by determining the percentage of primary nutrients in soil like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Moreover, use of normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in variable rate technology and green seeker efficiently manages the nitrogenous fertilizers for crops. It ensures the efficient use of fertilizers, and decreases the fertilizer losses and cost of production.
  3. Light is a crucial component for growth and development of crop plants. Weeds growing taller than the crop plants usually blocks light penetration and distribution within crop plants. Sometimes weeds are sensitive to shade like redroot pigweed and green foxtail but there are many others which are tolerant to shade like field bindweed, Arkansas rose and common milkweed. In robotic weed control system, the gray scale vision is utilized in developing a row structure so as to guide the robot for eradication of weeds or spray herbicides along the rows. Other type of vision is color-based that is used for differentiation and effective removal of a single among the weeds.
  4. Drones are being employed in agriculture in order to identify weeds, and monitor crop health, insect and disease attack, irrigation equipment, and herd and wildlife, and disaster management as well. Remote sensing by using the unmanned aeronautical vehicles (UAVs) for capturing, processing and analyzing the images are creating a huge impact on agriculture. They work in convergence with global positioning system (GPS) and other mounted sensors on them for site specific application of pesticides and fertilizers, and crop monitoring and mapping. A low cost multi-spectral imaging system has been developed for the purpose of crop monitoring. It is comprised of a microcontroller having two cameras installed on drone. One of these cameras is sensitive to infrared radiation and other is an RGB camera. In this system the images and information received in this way is utilized by the software and crop health status is determined.
  5. Yield mapping, enables the farmers to perceive the spatial variability over a field thereby recognizing the zone for future activities, and identifying the outcomes of past workings and management. Geographic information system (GIS) programming could be used to determine the yield at each field area. It alludes for the most part to the way towards gathering geo-referenced information on harvest yield and qualities.

Future of Artificial intelligence in Agriculture

            After all, the artificial intelligence based technology exhibits a bright scope in future agriculture. Artificial intelligence based technology will be helpful in predicting the weather conditions and other factors associated with agriculture such as soil and groundwater quality, crop rotation and pest attack etc. The accurate prediction of various risk factors by the use of artificial intelligence technology will decrease most of the concerns of our farmers. Artificial intelligence driven sensors are very useful to collect essential data pertaining to agriculture such as soil quality, groundwater level and quality, weather etc. which will be useful to improve cultivation process. The data obtained so will be beneficial for enhancing the crop production. Artificial intelligence equipped sensors can also be mounted on robotic equipment for harvesting of crops so as to collect data. It is believed that artificial intelligence based advisories will be helpful to increase crop production up to 30%. Companies have employed drones to identify any kind of pest attacks and monitor the crop production. Such activities have been successful many times which give the inspiration to have a system to monitor and protect crops. 

Dr. Tahira Tabassum1, Dr. Ali Zohaib2, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Wajid1, Dr. Adeeb Baber1 and Dr. Fouzia Tanvir1

1 University of Okara, Pakistan

2 Adaptive Research Farm, Gujranwala, Pakistan