Alphabet X exploring AI and drones to improve farming

Alphabet's "moonshot factory" X is tackling the world's food problems. X head Astro Teller recently revealed details about the effort at MIT Technology Review's EmTech Digital event, where he explained that machine learning is being explored as a potential boon to farming, essentially bringing an AI twist to agriculture. The project is still in its early stages, though.

X, formerly known as Google X, is behind Project Loon and other ambitious, often futuristic projects. According to Teller, the team has been exploring the potential use of AI in agriculture, though he didn't provide specifics on any given potential approach, of which machine learning is one. Though it's too early to say for sure, drones and robots could be involved in whatever X cooks up.

The mission would address food production issues and, therefore, food shortages in places around the globe. Climate change presents a unique and increasingly burdensome problem for farmers; it has disrupted many varieties of crop production, including coffee. As the globe warms, weather and pestilence prediction becomes more difficult, as well.

Whether artificial intelligence can be used to create more sustainable and efficient agriculture for improved food production is yet to be seen. And, whether X proceeds with pursuing any particular solution depends on multiple factors, with MIT noting among other things that it must have at least a smidge of potential for being reached in 5 – 10 years.

Even if X does proceed toward any given solution, it doesn't mean it'll be successful in the long run. Previously, for example, the team pursued vertical farming, which uses relatively little space and is presented as one possible way to provide communities with fresh, sustainable produce. That project was abandoned, though, after X failed to get certain primary crops like rice to grow.

SOURCE: MIT Technology Review