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July 19, 2023

AI and Agriculture: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Farming and Finance

Artificial intelligence (AI) has already irreversibly changed agriculture. 

AI and agriculture are a powerful duo. AI integration can help farmers better analyze data, make predictions, and solve problems. For example, it can assist in monitoring crops, optimizing irrigation, and even predicting weather patterns to make farming more efficient and productive. Nearly everyone agrees that AI will be an integral part of agriculture’s future. But what some people don’t realize is that AI already is. In fact, it has been shaping our lives as early as World War II

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and challenges in AI and agriculture, and how experts predict it will continue to shape our industry. 

How AI in Agriculture Has Already Changed Us 

Even before self-driving cars hit the consumer market, farmers were plowing fields with GPS-guided tractors.  

In the mid-1990s, John Deere began using GPS technology for precision agriculture, combining GPS location data with sensor readings to determine crop yield. To enhance accuracy and enable autonomous guidance, John Deere partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on GPS receivers. This collaboration resulted in tractors that could guide themselves with accuracy down to a few inches. This reduced overlap in field operations and provided benefits such as cost savings, increased efficiency, and reliable yield maps. The success of this partnership helped popularize autonomous precision agriculture worldwide.  

In the dairy industry, farmers are already using AI technology to care for their herds more effectively. After the shift to mechanized milking, farmers quickly adopted other technologies, like smart collars, activity trackers, and ear tag sensors. Wearable heat detectors can even forecast the optimal time for breeding. Experts are already developing tools that would allow farmers to identify specific animals suffering from diseases. This would allow them to treat singular cows, rather than the entire herd.  

What’s Next for AI and Agriculture 

After ChatGPT captured the attention of the world, hundreds of spinoffs flooded the market. One such technology is Norm, an agronomic advisor powered by the same technology as ChatGPT. The AI is intended to advise farmers in making economic decisions for their operation—and it’s already in Beta testing. 

Outside of advising and farm management, AI also has the potential to significantly transform the agricultural financing sector by revolutionizing the way we analyze and underwrite loans for farmers. Here are some ways AI can bring about change: 

1. Improved Risk Assessments

AI-powered algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data, including historical farm performance, market trends, weather patterns, and other relevant factors. By leveraging this data, AI can provide faster and more accurate risk assessments, making the underwriting process quicker for farmers.  

2. Streamlined Loan Application Process

AI is already helping to automate and streamline the loan application process. As it evolves, we will likely see farmers submit their financial information electronically for AI algorithms to analyze the data, verify information, and provide loan recommendations within a shorter timeframe. 

3. Personalized Financing Solutions

By analyzing individual farm data and financial profiles, AI algorithms can suggest customized loan terms, repayment schedules, and interest rates that align with your unique circumstances and goals. 

4. Real-Time Monitoring

AI-powered platforms can integrate with farm management systems and sensors to monitor farm operations in real time. This enables lenders to track key performance indicators, such as crop health, yield forecasts, and financial metrics. 

As AI speeds up agricultural finance, it’s important for lenders to keep humans at the center of lending. AI is a useful tool, but lenders like AgAmerica understand the benefits of person-to-person communication.  

Roadblocks for AI in Agriculture 

Even with so many advancements being made in agriculture, the farm industry is still lagging behind in terms of AI technology. Uneven access to high-speed internet in rural areas has created gaps in farmer accessibility of these tools.  

As lawmakers attempt to regulate the booming AI industry, the ag sector may soon find itself in a never-ending game of catch-up, forced to develop technologies in a regulated world, when many other industries were able to run wild for decades beforehand.  

Unfortunately, these security concerns and tightening regulations are not unfounded. “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things,” explained Geoffrey Hinton, one of the “godfathers of AI” and former VP of Google. 

The sad truth is as much as AI helps us thrive, it can also be leveraged by cybercriminals. In the last decade, the world was shown the severity of cyberattacks, with historic incidents like the JBS ransomware and Colonial Pipeline threatening domestic supply of meat and gas, respectively.  

It’s not all doom and gloom—experts agree that even though these risks are present, the benefits are worth it. Lawmakers and AI experts alike are working together to keep your farm safe from cybercrime. Whether we like it or not, AI is the future. If we try to ignore it, we run the risk of falling behind the rest of the world.  

As the World Rapidly Changes, Having a Lender on Your Side is Key

As America’s leading agricultural mortgage REIT, we know how quickly farm finances can change. The industry is evolving fast, and farmers need to be able to adapt. AgAmerica works with farmers every day to create flexible, custom lending solutions because we understand the vital role farmers play in keeping food on the table.  

If you’re looking to invest in new technology, or you need more capital to help you adapt your operation to industry changes, we can help. Learn more about our loan options today.

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