Sensors, smart devices, and AI could transform agriculture

Sensors, smart devices, and AI could transform agriculture

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By Wisse Hettinga

Biosensing engineer Azahar Ali, assistant professor of animal sciences and biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, is bracing for the arrival of a fourth agricultural revolution

It’s an era predicted to tap into the transformative potential of the connective technologies that have arisen in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To Ali, three technologies stand out for their potential to advance climate-smart, precision agriculture: wearable agriculture sensors, Internet of Things-enabled — or “smart” — devices, and artificial intelligence (AI).

In a review article published by Advanced Intelligent Systems, Ali and colleagues Matin Ataei Kachouei of the School of Animal Sciences and Ajeet Kaushik of Florida Polytechnic University wrote that merging these cutting-edge technologies could create a paradigm shift in how the agricultural sector monitors food safety and quality and plant health and productivity worldwide.

For Ali, prioritizing rapid, accurate, early monitoring will be critical to sustainably and safely feeding the fast-growing global population, which is expected to be nearly 10 billion by 2050 and will require 50 percent more food to maintain the world’s food supply chain, according to the article.

According to the 2023 Global Agricultural Productivity, or GAP, Report, released through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the growth of global agricultural productivity has significantly contracted and current efforts to sustainably expand production are inadequate.

Ali said researchers will need to collaborate to tap into the full potential of new technologies that could help producers keep up with future demand. Agronomists need to work with experts in engineering, human and veterinary medicine, and materials science.

“There’s a huge gap in this kind of collaboration,” Ali said. “I develop sensors, but I need to collaborate with experts in machine learning. We need to engage in more collaboration to solve the food crisis.”

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