“If you keep waiting around for ‘it’ to be ready you’ll never be ready when it’s actually ready!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Aloha from Kauai, Hawai! It was a long travel day but definitely worth it.
I’m here to speak today for the Chairman’s Luncheon for the Western Growers Association – the group that represents much of the fresh produce and fruit industry in California, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. The topic? Farming in the era of artificial intelligence:
Don’t know much about artificial intelligence (AI) but wish you did? AI is already arguably the most disruptive technology in human history, but what will it mean for agriculture and the future of food production? During the Chair’s Luncheon, world-renowned futurist and AI expert Jim Carroll will deliver compelling insight into how AI is transforming our industry and what your company can do to stay ahead of this emerging megatrend.
What will I cover? How about this for a sample:
Whether it’s driverless tractors, weed-zapping robots, or data-transmitting crops, the future of farming is happening faster than you might think! We’re rapidly transitioning into a world of 24-hour farming, no longer restricted to farming only when the sun is up!
Much of this future will involve AI-based robotics, sophisticated farm machinery, deep data insight on pests, climate, irrigation and water, plant diseases, and more. Much of it will involve a continued acceleration of a trend we’ve been talking about in the industry for years – what we refer to as ‘precision agriculture.’
I talk about many of these trends over on my AI in Agriculture page – give it a look.
One of the trends I will spend quite a bit of time on will have to do with agricultural robots – there are many innovative ideas being rapidly developed – and yet are not anywhere close to being mainstream. There are a lot of small startups, and innovative companies pushing the edges of what is possible with advanced technologies; in other cases, they are being built by the innovation-minded farmer in his or her barn, hacking away at the future. In the research labs of mainstream agricultural equipment manufacturers, there is a frenetic pace of R&D.
They can do such things as pick fruit, examine the crop to identify diseases, spray pesticides, and much more. And yet, they aren’t yet quite mainstream or even close to being ready for prime time; their deployment is limited; their development is still underway, It’s not like you can go into the local store and buy an ag-robot. This means that many in the audience might be of the mindset that this is a trend and an opportunity that they do not yet need to concern themselves with – and that’s a dangerous place to be.
One of my favorite phases when it comes to the future is – ‘we tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a two-year basis, and underestimate how much change will have occurred on a 10-year-basis.‘ At some point in time, AI-based ag robots will be common and in widespread use; today, they are not yet even close to being there. That doesn’t mean we can or should ignore the trend – it’s more important that we understand it, work with it, get involved with it, and understand what is happening – so that as it becomes mainstream, we’re ready to go.
Because if you keep waiting around for ‘it’ to be ready you’ll never be ready when it’s actually ready!