Agriculture: What Role Is Artificial Intelligence Playing?

Agriculture fears the effects of artificial intelligence (AI). Over the last few months I have had many conversations, read many articles and watched some videos about our computer-controlled future. Most people are rational and calm about the technology takeover and artificial intelligence. They are both excited and accepting of it. Other’s fear that there is going to be very little humans can do in the future.

Agriculture: Is Technology Truly The Answer?

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Angus McIntosh, a biodynamic farmer based in Stellenbosch

Computers and robots (artificial intelligence) will do everything better than any human ever imagined. My understanding of technology goes as far as being able to spell the word. I know a little more about farming. After eight years in this field, I believe that technology is not going to replace regenerative farmers.

Unlike lawyers and taxi drivers, for example. I have many reasons for saying this. Let’s just focus on soil, 300 square kilometres of topsoil is lost, globally, every day. Imagine the size of the area and the amount of soil lost, daily. 300 square kilometres is 10 km in one direction, then a 90°-turn and then 30 km. Then another 90°-turn, then 10 km, and finally a 90°-turn, followed by 30 km. This therefore gets you back to where you started.

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Artificial Intelligence and Agriculture

Computers cannot build topsoil. It cannot be 3D-printed. In a handful of healthy soil there are more micro organisms than there are humans on earth. Topsoil is the single most important asset in any country. Not only is it the medium in which the food is grown, but it is also the most stable store of carbon. Carbon is the scaffolding of life. The more carbon in your soils, the more stable your environment. For example, for every 1% by which you increase your soil organic matter (62% of which is carbon), you increase your water-holding capacity by 1 million litres per hectare. We are in the middle of a severe drought. I would love to have my soils hold more water.

The WWF has just released a report that states that, by 2020, the global wildlife population could have dropped by 67%. Between 1970 and 2012, more than half the vertebrates in the world died, caused by the normal modern human inventions of habitat loss, pollution, invasive species and poisoning of the earth – in other words, caused by modern farming techniques. AI cannot reverse any of these problems, because it is the pinnacle of the mindset that created them. Einstein’s definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. No AI accountant can understand true cost accounting, because no human accountant understands it either.

What Is The Future Of Agriculture And Artificial Intelligence?

A central element of regenerative agriculture has to do with moving livestock to new pastures on a daily basis. This is not something any machine can ever do. The variables are complex. Each move is different, as it depends on the state of the pasture, where they are going (height of plants, irrigation penetration, are the legumes in flower so the animals don’t bloat?) and where they are going to get their water from. Some of them might walk slower today than normally. No machine is ever going to do this, because it is an exercise in context and feeling.agriculture, artificial intelligence | Longevity LIVE

In conclusion, AI is the manifestation of reductionist thinking. Computers are reductionist creations. Nature does not work in a reductionist manner, but in a contextual, community-oriented and collaborative manner. Nature always has the final say. Put another way, doubling down on the very reductionist thinking that created our modern problems is not going to invent us back out of the chasm. By supporting regenerative farmers, you are doing your bit to hold off this ghastly future where all we will eat are multicoloured 3D-printed pills.