If it comes as a surprise that a recent government auction of 5G broadband licenses was won by agricultural giant Deere & Co. rather than AT&T or another telecom stalwart, maybe it shouldn’t. Farming – which over thousands of years evolved from humans pulling plows to chemical and most recently its genetic era – is entering its digital age. Also referred to as precision agriculture, the changes being wrought by collection and analysis of data, on life and work in rural areas, are set to accelerate.
One example from Deere that is set to debut in the farm fields next summer combines machine vision and machine learning – or, to put it in words easier to understand, think facial recognition for plants. Back in 2017, Deere acquired a company called Blue River Technology, which has been working on a way to identify individual plants and weeds. That’s not an easy task when you consider that a single acre of farm can encompass thousands of plants and the heavy machine moving through the field is operating at a speeds of 10-20 mph.
AI is quickly moving into all varieties of farms and on a global basis. In China, pork farms have been using facial recognition to map and monitor pigs’ faces. And from an Irish start-up to ag giants like Cargill, facial recognition of cows for dairy farms is advancing.
“Farms in these rural environments are very technologically capable, tech savvy, creating significant data each and every day during the growing season,” said Jahmy Hindman, who became Deere’s chief technology officer this past July, speaking at Thursday’s CNBC @Work Spotlight event. “The information being created is really going into helping them be me more productive and sustainable and more precise. …. Information is really critical to making decisions in the moment, minimizing inputs farmers have to put into the business and maximizing productivity.”
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