Water

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We just got a much needed rain!  Our crops and pastures were suffering from lack of moisture.  Wind storms were blowing dry soil and cutting off plants, while cattle ranchers were making hard choices about selling their herds.

But we also know that for many farms in the USA, there is far too much water.  Farms are saturated and many acres have not been planted. Even those acres where farmers have been able to “mud in” the crop, the plants are stressed by cold and saturated soil.

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So water affects us all in different ways, and its impact cannot be understated.  On our farm we have been investigating both irrigation and tile drainage options to help with water management.  The initial investment for either type of water management is not small. Each requires a number of preliminary paperwork and regulatory steps, as well as boots on the ground surveys of the land conditions and natural water levels and flows.

Water management is a growing challenge for farmers and needs high tech solutions in order to address sustainability from an environmental and financial standpoint. Keep reading this week as we talk about the impact of water.

AI in Ag: Cow Herding Robot

On Friday’s you need a good laugh, and a few weeks ago one of our readers sent me this video as their fun example of AI in Ag and I loved it!

A robot that herds cows, just what every farmer needs to see on a Friday.

It’s a little bit of ingenuity, beefed up for use in farming (I love the swinging arms and automated voice!).

Shameless plug for AI in a Day camps - that automated voice is something coders would learn how to do!


Image Recognition: How an Irish Company just got Cargill to buy in

In the past few weeks we have focused on how AI is already in Agriculture, and the amazing new career paths it is opening up. BUT we also know that seeing is believing, and in this case it’s literally ‘seeing’.

Cainthus is a company founded in Ireland with offices in California and Ottawa, that recently received funding from Cargill - a pretty darn big deal for a startup company.

And what’s their big idea? Image recognition for cattle - based on reading ear tags, hide markings, height and size (and probably a bunch of other attributes) image recognition is used to recognize which cow is where and how that information can allow for passive monitoring of herd behavior, reduce herd stress and identify concerns.

For kids interested in facial recognition, we’ll be teaching how to get started at AI in a Day camps. BUT we’ve been getting A LOT of feedback from people older than 16 who would want to learn about facial recognition too. So, we would love your feedback, would you attend a webinar that taught the basics of AI?

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AI in Ag: Pessl Instruments

A company based in Austria has created a suite of products focused on the opportunities in Industry 4.0 often referred to as the Internet of Things or IoT.

Weather stations from Pessl Instruments are being installed by Green Valley Equipment in the Morden, Manitoba area in collaboration with local farmers utilizing John Deere Operations Center.

Seeing the possibilities is like planting the seed, and seeing what Pessl Instruments has made possible globally in AI and Ag is really impressive.

See you soon! (where we'll be this summer)

“Happiness is when your passion and career collide, and you can look forward to Mondays”

We laughed when we saw this quote, because we love what we’re doing so much, we don’t wait for Monday’s!

Thanks to all of those we have already met through media coverage on CBC, CJOB, Global West Broadcasting! Events like Data Tech 2019, podcasts like Teaching Python, or even international flights (shout out to my seatmates from Iceland and Germany and the flight crew on @IcelandAir who were all interested in AI in Ag!). BUT, it also never occurred to us that we better tell you all where we will be next. We’ll blame that on being so excited about what we are doing, and running so lean as we grow that we sometimes need a reminder every now and then!

So in the next month we’d love to meet more of you at:

We love getting to know our audience and look forward to meeting you this summer!

AI in Ag: Drones

At the end of May we presented at Data Tech 2019 - but the event was sold out and so we know not everyone who wanted to come was able to- so we have broken down our presentation to a few excerpts. When speaking to a AI audience without an agricultural background we try to highlight areas of continued opportunity, and ways in which commercial providers can help farmers to be successful. Creating bridges between technology and agriculture is a passion of ours. If you have a different perspective on imagery, we’d love to hear from you! Comment, message or e-mail us to share your thoughts and experiences. - Karen

Access to satellite and drone imagery is still proving its importance in agriculture - and I believe it is because of the very things that can be enabled by Artificial Intelligence.  Satellite imagery can show point in time context, such as conditions during seeding, and harvest and provide visualization of performance and yields.

Many companies are now offering satellite imagery on a daily basis for farmers to be able to analyze what their fields look like, any signs of disease, yellow of the crop (lack of nitrogen), presence of water/water distress.  This is all key, important information to farmers, but it stops short of doing automated image comparisons to highlight to the farmer where the changes are in the field, where the imagery detects that further attention needs to be paid.  

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Drone imagery can enable access to parts of the field that cannot be easily scouted by foot, and can be programmed to automatically take off and fly the field, but requires image stitching/processing which can be extremely challenging when uploading data over slow internet speeds often found in rural areas.

Integration of this imagery with “action taken” would also be hugely helpful.  For example if the farmer sees there is nitrogen deficiency and goes out and does an application, being able to connect that action back to the imagery to determine if that application changes the crop healthy in the next 5-7 days is important.  

Imagery on the fields themselves is also only one application.  Imagery of the farm yard, particularly the bin sites are equally important.  Farmers store their production in bins on-site until their contract calls for delivery.  That means there can be millions of dollars sitting in a bin site awaiting delivery. Just like a grocery store has security cameras to protect their inventory, the same is needed by farmers to protect their bins.  Being able to do so, while detecting only “unrecognized” vehicles/access and alerting the farmer would be of extremely high value. The primary constraint being the rural nature of farm sites, which tend to have lower internet connectivity rates, and slow connection speeds due to the sparcity of the population.  Abilities to compress the data, or process locally and sending only alerts and photo captures of “unauthorized access” would ideally suit the unique constraints of remote sites.

Imagery and it’s impact to the bottom line is still an emerging connection in farming tech, but there are some start ups making exciting progress in this space, and we look forward to seeing more development to meet agriculture needs.

AI in Ag: Autonomous Tractors

Last week we presented at Data Tech 2019 - but the event was sold out and so we know not everyone who wanted to come was able to- so we have broken down our presentation to a few excerpts that we’ll share in the next few days.

Driving a machine that is worth more than your annual salary purely by satellite → inspiring.

While autonomous cars are not yet on the majority of roadways, pieces of equipment that are $0.5M are now being powered across fields globally using the same technology.  It is truly revolutionary, and I highly encourage you if you ever have the opportunity, visit a farm and see what auto-steer feels like.

When I was growing up, and started helping my Dad on the farm, my swathing and combining did look a little more like snakes going up and down the fields than like straight lines.  I zigged and zagged a little bit, I certainly overlapped, and in some cases underlapped (if that’s a word). So, while I would get the field done, it wasn’t the prettiest, and the stubble left behind always showed how straight I had gone, or in my case how off course I had gone.  

So, when I went back to the farm to help with harvest again, about 10 years later, I was absolutely amazed.  My parents had invested in auto-steer in all of their equipment. Honestly, all I was in the cab for was to turn corners at the end of the field.  I had a good 10 minutes of “me time” in between the equipment having any need for me. It was absolutely amazing.

But not only was it amazing for me, it made business sense, and greatly improved environmental sustainability.  So even if autonomous tractors and cars are not yet the norm, GPS and AI have enabled auto-steer for the majority of implements which has enabled:

  1. Improved precision

  2. Accuracy when seeding

  3. Reduced overlap - critical when thinking of chemical and fertilizer application

  4. Reduced carbon footprint - fewer passes across the field

  5. Introduced capabilities in understanding fields at a greater level with big data with geospatial awareness

  6. Enabled tracking of machinery

All from a tiny bubble placed on the roof of each machine.

GPS and AI at work: when you can see straight lines even on an irregularly shaped field!  Drone imagery courtesy of Deer Creek Farms

GPS and AI at work: when you can see straight lines even on an irregularly shaped field!

Drone imagery courtesy of Deer Creek Farms

AI in Ag: What's that Weed?

Recognizing what something is, is so automatic to us, most of us probably do not even think about it anymore. Much like a computer, we either know what something is or we don’t. But have you ever seen something before, snapped and picture and let Google help you figure it out? Then you’ve used AI.

In agriculture, some really cool innovation is taking place to make that recognition of weeds easier. It can be as simple as ‘what is this weed’, or as complex as image recognition of the weed in real time while making a decision as to if to spray the identified plant or not. The binary, good plant/bad plant scenario.

Cameras and sensors have to perform AI on the edge in order to achieve the low latency response time to understand what application to perform as it travels across the field.

Cameras and sensors have to perform AI on the edge in order to achieve the low latency response time to understand what application to perform as it travels across the field.

Spraying of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides can be guided to specifically spray from only the nozzles, or passes of the field that require the treatment.  Innovation in equipment design enables real time IoT imagery to recognize the crop vs. weeds and spray very specifically only on the weeds.  Applying image recognition to agriculture in real time is innovation that improves the farmers ability to keep the land and their plants healthy.

Enablement of such precision applications, and the collection of data requires “smart equipment” and increasingly Data Science algorithms to optimize.  Precision prescriptions, variable rate seeding, fertilizer and spraying are only the start. Many of the interfaces still require refinement to be easy and intuitive to use, but it is the future of farming.

Python Podcast: AI in Ag reaches Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Python is a programming language that is prevalent in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Python is a programming language that is prevalent in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

We had the opportunity to connect with Kelly & Sean - two amazing educators from Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale Florida, and hosts of the podcast Teaching Python. Kudos to their school for incorporating Python into the curriculum for a 9 week technology focus.

Check out the episode featuring FarmFemmes here.

Are you an educator that wants to stay in touch? Fill out the form below to be added to the FarmFemmes e-mail list, where we’ll keep you up to date on upcoming coding camps, curriculum and AI in Ag topics.

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