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Great power, great responsibility; channelling artificial intelligence for agriculture

The artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has taken the world by storm, and the Australian agrifood sector is no exception. As we witness the emergence of innovative products like ChatGPT, Claude, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, it's clear that the past 50 years of computer science investment have culminated in a plethora of AI-driven solutions. Andrew Skinner, Director of digital and data systems consultancy firm, More Than Machines, reflects on all things AI and why Australian agriculture is punching above its weight.

Andrew Skinner talking at a event.

Nowhere is the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) more profound than in agriculture – and Australian agritech companies are undeniably punching above their weight in AI adoption.  

Some AI powerhouses spring to mind; Swarm Farm, Pairtree, Agriwebb, Goterra, and Regrow Ag, to name a few.  

In fact, the recent CSIRO AI Ecosystem Momentum Report December 2023 identified livestock production and horticulture as two of the most promising domains for AI application, with significant economic potential and competitive advantage.  

RELATED: Getting Into the Weeds: the AI data dilemma 

Over the past 20 plus years, Australia’s agriculture sector has invested heavily in data, the lifeblood of AI. This investment puts agrifood in a strong position to maximise AI opportunities. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) have also made significant strides in developing tools like the farm data code, data specifications, tools, and adoption materials. 

RELATED: Embracing the future with Nina Schick and Phil Morle 

As Uncle Ben told a young Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  

When it comes to AI, we must acknowledge that there are still kinks to be worked out, responsible governance frameworks to be developed, and use cases to be proven.  

Andrew Skinner talks to a room of people.

RELATED: Nina Schick on mind-bending AI: a catalyst for a new food future 

However, I have been impressed by the innovation in leveraging AI of young companies like Azaneo, Boost AI, Bitwise Agronomy, and others showcased in Startup Alley at AgriFutures evokeAG 2024.  

RELATED: Who to watch in 2024: 40 startups set to turn heads at evokeAG. 

These companies are harnessing AI to enhance their services and empower farmers. In fact, nearly every company in Startup Alley is leveraging one or more aspects of AI technology, be that statistical modelling, Machine Learning or Machine Vision technologies. 

RELATED: Feeding the world one gene at a time with Tress Walmsley and Ponsi Trivisvavet 

As we navigate the hype cycle surrounding AI, it’s essential that we balance inflated expectations with practical applications and business cases.

We must also consider the future workforce, where individuals will need to be adept with a keyboard or circuit board as much as with a spanner and be open to unfamiliar approaches such as embracing open-source innovation as excellently presented at evokeAG. by Guy Coleman, 2024 evokeAG. Future Young Leader, and Founder, OpenWeedLocator (OWL). 

RELATED: ‘This one is not going away’: How agrifood can create value through the circular economy 

While there’s no doubt that the coming tsunami of AI innovation will bring with it applications that will bring significant benefits to agriculture, we must ensure our industry is ready to capture that value.

By focusing on data-driven decision-making and AI adoption, we will need to move fast to unlock new opportunities for farmers, producers, and the agricultural sector as a whole. 

More than machines is an agrifood technology research, strategy and technology company. Its mission is to invent the sustainable technology needed to feed the next 10 billion people. Need a hand developing digital tools, strategy and products that grow sustainable, productive businesses? Reach out to Andrew at [email protected] 

 


Tickets are now on sale for evokeAG. 2025 to be held on 18-19 February 2025 in Brisbane, Queensland. Following a sell-out event in 2024 we are encouraging delegates to secure their tickets, flights and accommodation early.

We look forward to seeing you in Brisbane for evokeAG. 2025. In the meantime, catch up on the other conversations about sustainability, climate resilience and the role of agtech in meeting those challenges from here.

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