Hi All! It’s been a while since this blog, I know. Well, I entered IB this year with a pompous attitude of “nothing fazes me”. Looking back now, maybe not. I lost track of so many things, one of which was this very blog. But I’m back again! So without any further ado, here is the newest of its kind post, related to agriculture and artificial intelligence! Enjoy!
Its often presumed that the “why”s in people’s lives play a major role in their individual growth. The heights a person will achieve and the barriers they would cross in life are often a reflection of the “why”s they chased as kids and teens. But what we often forget to acknowledge is the will and desire with which they chased after those questions. The hours of curiosity and effort poured into answering these questions are what truly matter and make a difference in their lives.
One such chaser who made and IS making a difference in this world is Leo Marcelis. A professor of horticulture by day and an A.I. developer in agriculture by night. Yup, first of his kind and if I’m not wrong, he created the profession… kind of like the ‘consulting detective’ Sherlock Holmes.
His driving “why” throughout his childhood was “Why do plants grow the way they do?” And before he knew it, he was neck-deep in the waters of “How can I make the plants grow even better than the way they are?” Swimming through these… metaphorical waters… Leo’s research is capable of entirely revolutionizing the farming industry.
Owning around 10,000 hectares of greenhouses for agriculture, Leo and his team study and observe trends in the various plants growing in their greenhouses. As of now, the tomato production per acre in this “Silicon Valley of Agriculture” is seven times that of any regular farm. No wonder the flashy name!
So What Is He Doing Different?
The key ingredient… although surprising… is gravity! Vertical Farming!
Combine that with an artificial substrate made for a specific type of fruit or vegetables and you have everything you need for a first-rate soup! (It’s a metaphor… I’m just feeling very metaphorical today😅)
But hey, where do the sauces come from?? They come from the above-ground environment – the air humidity, carbon-di-oxide concentration, etc.
Where’s the A.I.?
Sensors hidden among the plants constantly stream data to a centralized computer that controls the environment within the greenhouses. And we know it… the moment data comes in, the next best thing is Artificial Intelligence. An A.I. that reads and understands this data stream and consequently adjusts the greenhouse atmosphere, indirectly controlling the plant growth.
For instance, assume that the environment inside a greenhouse (for some reason I couldn’t come up with why) becomes very humid. In scientific terms, the moisture content in the atmosphere goes up. This would play an important role in the water content of the plant as its transpiration rate would drop. And well, too much of anything, especially H2O inside a plant, is definitely not good. So the A.I. will step in to avoid any further damage to the plant by reducing the moisture content in the air or at least by reducing any further addition to the already present water content.
Take any other scenario, say too much heat – this would definitely cause harm to plant cells, but more importantly will burn the enzymes necessary for the basic functionality of the plant. A plant without the required enzymes will lack several, if not all, nutrients in its fruits. We need the A.I controller to step in, maybe spray some water, turn on the AC (does AC work for plants… no idea) and settle down the rising heat.
In general, we see the tremendously important role this A.I plays here as even letting the situation get out of control for a moment can severely affect the delicate plants growing inside a greenhouse. And isn’t that what we have machines for, to work EXACTLY as specified, without laziness or sloppiness. But on the contrary, we also have to make sure what we specify to the machine… kind of like “careful what you wish for”.
…hope you enjoyed reading another one of the spicy updates in the world of A.I.. But hey, it doesn’t end here! Stay tuned for the next post which is also addresses the marvellous discoveries which will soon, if not already, revolutionise the agriculture industry. Just imagine, a world where we grow plants with zero harm to the environment and yet have food to suffice the entire world’s population. Atleast that’s what Leo’s dream is!
To know more about Leo Marcelis’ work in Horticulture, check out the video below!