Technology

First AI virtual assistant created for sustainable farming

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In the same way virtual assistants help us discover our next favorite song, a new software package has used advanced machine learning to help farmers and agronomists pinpoint what their crops and soils need to boost yield in a sustainable way.

The scientific teams of Bayer Crop Science and Biome Makers tested and disclosed the first application of this groundbreaking technology on bioRxiv. The study and resulting scientific paper details the analysis of the soil microbiome to assess effectiveness of Bayer’s biological fungicide Minuet. Specifically, machine learning software allowed Bayer CS to predict potato yield improvement before application of the input. The predicted result was a yield bump of up to 40% in one of the fields tested in Idaho.

“It’s a unique approach to utilize soil biology and optimize the use of crop inputs moving forward towards sustainable and economically favorable solutions to improve crop productivity,” said Varghese Thomas the project leader at Bayer CS.

This technology is a giant leap forward for agronomist who, up until now, have lacked the data required to accurately determine biological solutions for their seasonal soil and crop decisions. Soil is a valuable asset to increase crop yield and quality, but as it currently stands, agronomic recommendations are based on little knowledge of the biological processes occurring in it. But today, with the availability of an AI virtual assistant to help predict the effect of different solutions is game-changing, and progress towards a more productive and sustainable agriculture system.

AI is an ever-evolving resource and, as such, is currently being “trained” to resolve other farming concerns as well, including questions about produce shelf-life, nutrient quality of the produce, and projected carbon credits based on the use of different products or management practices. Input manufacturers can add their own, custom solution to the AI recommendation system by testing it under the strict Gheom field trials protocol.

Gheom is a microbial-based protocol for field trials

Biological solutions are an effective tool for increasing yield and crop quality while reducing environmental issues, which is why transparency is crucial in the world of biological inputs. Many promises are made about the positive impact of these inputs, but farmers and agronomists can lack independent and reliable tools to assess their real effect on soil health.

That’s where Gheom comes in. It is designed to accurately gauge biological product efficacy by analyzing the most meaningful bioindicator in nature — the soil microbiome. This is a vital service Biome Makers offers to ag-input manufacturers in their pursuit of credibility and complete transparency. This, in turn, will create even more options for the farming community to deliver a sustainable food supply.

For example, LIVENTIA is assessing how their microbial biostimulants based on microbial consortia impact the ecological balance of soils, promoting effects like root growth, nutrient uptake, and stress tolerance to boost yield and crop quality. 

“Combining this breakthrough technology with the entire toolbox of precision agriculture, such as self-driving tractors and precision spraying applications, allows us to imagine a bright, new future of secure and sustainable farming worldwide,” said Alberto Acedo, Chief Scientific Officer at Biome Makers.

The recent joint publication presented by Biome Makers and Bayer CS is much more than a scientific demonstration. It offers a new perspective on crop input efficiency and sustainable agriculture, with lasting implications on how traditional agronomists and retailers recommend products as well as how farmers manage the long-term health and productivity of their fields.

Currently, select growers in the U.S. and EU can test the recommendation system with complimentary functional soil analytics for their fields.

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