Editor’s Note: Paul Turner is CEO and cofounder of AgDNA, a farm management software platform that combines precision farming data, the Internet-of-Things and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help commercial crop producers increase profits. We asked Turner to write about AgDNA’s new partnership with CNH Industrial, the large equipment manufacturer.
AgDNA has partnered with CNH Industrial to give its customers access to AgDNA’s AI-enabled technology platform and ultimately boost on-farm productivity, efficiency and profitability for growers.
He also writes about the increasing interest in AI by major equipment manufacturers and the role AI will play in driving greater productivity at the farm gate.
Taking AI AgTech Mainstream
Artificial Intelligence is making its way into all aspects of our daily lives. The major tech companies have embedded AI into our smartphones, apps and home appliances to improve the user experience. This approach is now being applied across all major industrial sectors including manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.
While we’ve seen robots on manufacturing assembly floors for decades, they’re now being embedded with AI to become “smarter” and more capable. This is why robots are making their way out of the factory and onto our roads and farms.
Talk of self-driving cars seems to be everywhere now with tech giants such as Tesla, Google, and Uber trying to be first to market. However, very few people realize that agriculture has had “hands-free” auto-steering technology driving tractors in the field for decades. So it’s not surprising to see the major tractor manufacturers evolving from self-steering to self-driving tractors.
One such manufacturer leading the way with driverless tractor technology is CNH Industrial. The company debuted its autonomous concept vehicle (ACV) in 2016 signaling where the industry is heading. CNH Industrial is the company behind Case IH farm equipment.
Bringing AI to Agriculture
At AgDNA we’re excited to announce our partnership with CNH Industrial to design and deliver ClearVU, a next-generation Farm Management Software (FMS) platform for Case IH equipment owners in Australia and New Zealand.
The partnership enables Case IH equipment owners to take their farming operation to the next level and leverage the power of the latest cloud, mobile, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. ClearVU provides seamless two-way data connectivity with AFS Connect, allowing growers to manage their equipment and farming operation from anywhere they have an internet connection. Case IH will offer the ClearVU FMS platform to existing and new equipment owners via the comprehensive dealer network across Australia and New Zealand.
The quality and scope of precision farming data being generated across the range of Case IH equipment is remarkable. Using AgDNA’s cloud-based platform, these data are then combined with other vital agronomic information such as soil conditions, rainfall patterns, and satellite imagery to see the whole picture of what is taking place throughout the field.
By automatically analyzing the data, the platform can deliver actionable insights that help growers boost yields, lower input costs, and ultimately maximize profitability across every acre of their operation. Helping to drive greater productivity for farmers is critical in order to feed our growing population from existing farmland.
AI is Providing New Ways to Solve Old Problems
Farming is tough, but technology can help. Large-scale commercial farming is like operating a big industrial outdoor factory. However, this factory grows crops that are exposed to the elements, it has an intermittent power supply (sun, rainfall), labor shortages (remote locations), fluctuating income (commodity prices) and only gets paid once a year assuming the crop survived to full maturity.
Typically large-scale crop producers rely on yield maps to determine the crop’s performance at the end of a season and which parts of the field performed better than others. With the introduction of FMS platforms such as AgDNA, growers can now move their attention from yield maps to profit maps.
By combining all the various geo-spatial datasets with financial information, AI enabled solutions such as AgDNA can then analyze this data and compare it with historical results to provide actionable insights on how to how to address profit limiting issues. These issues can range anywhere from poor drainage to the over-application of fertilizer.
The resulting insights can lead to generating greater yields while reducing overall environmental impacts such as less fertilizer or water requirements. This is otherwise known as precision agriculture where crops are managed depending on the unique characteristics for that precise location in the field. AI is transforming precision agriculture with new possibilities that were previously unimaginable.
Building AI Solutions for the Future of Agriculture
Of course, the applications for AI in agriculture go well beyond matching the variety of seed for a given soil type or determining how much nitrogen to apply throughout the season. AI can be applied to everything from equipment optimization, disease detection to streamlining the supply chain.
Most major manufacturers have embraced the Internet-of-Things (IoT) which essentially means their products are connected to the internet. So we now have real-time data streaming from machinery, sensors, and satellites that can be stored in the cloud and continuously analyzed to find insights capable of delivering greater efficiencies.
The resulting technologies are exciting and will drive the next wave of disruption in agriculture. Other examples of AI applications include using computer vision to spray weeds (not the crop), or analyzing images of a plant to identify disease and optimal treatment.
Will AI in Agriculture be Exclusive to Major Corporates?
While the large multi-national agribusinesses have extensive R&D budgets and available resources, they also have time-consuming internal processes that lengthen their development timelines and slow innovation. Startups, on the other hand, have the freedom to quickly decide what’s best for their customers and act immediately. This speed to market and unbiased decision making can give the agtech startup community a definite edge over their larger competition.
At AgDNA we’ve always been highly market-focused. We have almost 400 reseller locations across the US and we talk with them regularly to gain valuable feedback from their growers, so we know precisely what to build. This process ensures we are developing solutions for real-world problems and that we continue to invest in the capabilities that growers see the most value in.
Startups who partner across the industry have the advantage of collecting the required data regardless of brand. This allows for a more complete picture of the farm and an unbiased analysis of the information to deliver the optimum result for the grower. We believe startups will continue to have an advantage in the AI space given the reliance on data for machine learning purposes.
The Future of AgTech is Brighter Than Ever
By combining the latest precision farming hardware technology from companies such as CNH Industrial with emerging AI capabilities such as those developed at AgDNA, growers will gain access to valuable information and insights that were unimaginable only a couple of years ago.