Artificial Intelligence - Why ethics are important in AI farming technologies

Why ethics are important in AI farming technologies

By Brook Sauer Ruiz, founder and CEO of Elby’s Organics,
a new food startup based in Hamburg, Germany.

AI isn’t science fiction

If you mention Artificial intelligence (AI) to a person, the first thing that comes to mind are movies like Terminator, IRobot, The Matrix, and AI. Moviemakers have done a superb job of painting AI as a thing of science fiction with nefarious intentions.

Now that AI technologies are a reality, it’s only natural that people take caution and question the ethics surrounding the topic. It’s unlikely that AI robotics will rebel and take over the world.  However, having ethical rules in place for the humans responsible for the machines, will ensure a safe and proper use of what AI technologies have to offer.

Agri Data & AI

In the world of agriculture, AI and big data go hand in hand. You can’t have AI technologies without the use of big data. And likewise, you can’t hope to process the volume of data gathered by smart farming solutions without the help of AI.

An ERP system is a useful tool for collecting, organizing, processing and visualizing large amounts of data. You would like to optimise your data management and increase your profitability? We are looking forward to advise you about your possibilities.

ERP systems support companies in the agricultural sector efficiently in data collecting and management. But how are data collected by farms protected from exploitation? Data protection laws of recent years bring up an important ethical issue for the farming community.

On one side, sharing Agri Data benefits farmers a great deal by improving crop yields and reducing waste. But in the wrong hands, farming data could be used to sabotage the livelihood of an operation. It’s of the upmost importance that farmers be able to protect their data, yet still have a safe space to share information.

The formation of the EU Code of Conduct on Agricultural Data Sharing was an important step forward in organizing ethical standards in the farming sector. The code promotes the safe sharing of data, with the goal of increasing yields and using less resources. Its affiliates span all areas of the agriculture sector, and share the common goal of using data to improve crop quality and volume.

AI replacing the labor force

Another ethical topic surrounding the use of AI robotics, is the elimination of jobs. Through history, the need for full time laborers has declined with every technological advance in farming. It’s therefore understandable that concerns about employment be raised.

However, AI robotics don’t run themselves. They need human manpower to operate and maintain. The skillset required for farming might evolve over time, but there will always be the need for some type of labor on the farm. These technologies should be seen as a compliment to the human expert, not a replacement.

Additionally, society is experiencing widespread urbanization. People are moving from rural areas to live in cities, and are no longer willing to do the difficult work required for farming. This creates a crisis in itself for the industry, and farmers all over the globe are turning to AI robotics to fill the gap.

AI is Expensive

New technology is expensive, and automated farming equipment is no exception. The price tag for a smart farm can be costly, making it difficult for smaller operations to adopt. When big farming corporations are the only ones who can afford to automate, it creates a digital divide.

Without technology like AI, Big Data, and ERP systems, smaller operations struggle to remain competitive in the market. The main concern, is that the bigger companies will buy out smaller operations, creating monopolies of land.

Thankfully, the industry is already working on a solution. The IoF2020 is designed to help bring tech providers and growers together. The goal is to mainstream farming technologies and business practices.

Widespread investment in smart farming, will drive the price down over time. IoF2020 provides the framework for industry players to collaborate. This lowers the barrier of entry for smaller farms, and paves the way for success in the European AgTech industry.

The future of AI

With population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, we will need to produce 70% more food in order to feed the population. However, there is not enough farmable land to support this volume of growth. This along with climate change, pose very serious threats to the wellbeing of future generations. Luckily, solutions are being developed.

AgTech is widely recognized as the future of farming. It’s the only way we will be able sustain the population in years to come, and it’s here to stay.

Finding ways to ethically share data with the goal of creating jobs, producing more crops, and wasting less, are the pillars of new-age farming. With the right ethical standards in place, we will ensure the new technologies are used for the greater good, creating a sustainable and abundant food ecosystem for years to come.