Cultivating AI: AgTech Industry Taps NVIDIA GPUs to Protect the Planet

Here are some of the ways agriculture companies are making every day about creating a positive social impact.
by Scott Martin

What began as a budding academic movement into farm AI projects has now blossomed into a field of startups creating agriculture technology with a positive social impact for Earth.

Whether it’s the threat to honey bees worldwide from varroa mites, devastation to citrus markets from citrus greening, or contamination of groundwater caused from agrochemicals — AI startups are enlisting NVIDIA GPUs to help solve these problems.

With Earth Day today, here’s looking at some of the work of developers, researchers and entrepreneurs who are harnessing NVIDIA GPUs to protect the planet.

The Bee’s Knees: Parasite Prevention 

Bees are under siege by varroa parasites destroying their colonies. And saving the world’s honeybee population is about a lot more than just honey. All kinds of farmers now need to rent bees because of their scarcity to get their own crops pollinated.

Beewise, a startup based in Israel, has developed robo hives with computer vision for infestation identification and treatment capabilities. In December, TIME magazine named the Beewise Beehome to its “Best Inventions of 2020” list. Others are using deep learning to understand hives better and look at improved hive designs.

Beewise is a member of NVIDIA Inception, a virtual accelerator program that helps startups in AI and data science get to market faster.

Orange You Glad AI Helps

If it weren’t for AI, that glass of orange juice for breakfast might be a puckery one. A rampant “citrus greening” disease is decimating orchards and souring fruit worldwide. Thankfully, University of Florida researchers are developing computer vision for smart sprayers of agrochemicals, which are now being licensed and deployed in pilot tests by CCI, an agricultural equipment company.

The system can adjust in real time to turn off or on the application of crop protection products or fertilizers as well as adjust the amount sprayed based on the plant’s size.

SeeTree, based in Israel, is tackling citrus greening, too. It offers a GPU-driven tree analytics platform of image recognition algorithms, sensors, drones and a data collection app.

The startup uses NVIDIA Jetson TX2 to process images and CUDA as the interface for cameras at orchards. The TX2 enables it to do fruit-detection for orchards as well as provide farms with a yield estimation tool.

AI Land of Sky Blue Water

Inception-accelerated startup Bilberry, located in Paris, develops weed recognition powered by the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI platform for precision application of herbicides. The company has helped customers reduce the usage of chemicals by as much as 92 percent.

FarmWise, based in San Francisco, offers farmers an AI-driven robotic machine for pulling weeds rather than spraying them, reducing groundwater contamination.

Also, John Deere-owned Blue River offers precision spraying of crops to reduce the usage of agrochemicals harmful to land and water.

And two students from India last year developed Nindamani, an AI-driven, weed-removal robot prototype that took top honors at the AI at the Edge Challenge on

Milking AI for Dairy Farmers 

AI is going to the cows, too. Advanced Animal Diagnostics, based in Morrisville, North Carolina, offers a portable testing device to predict animal performance and detect infections in cattle before they take hold. Its tests are processed on NVIDIA GPUs in the cloud. The machine can help reduce usage of antibiotics.

Similarly, SomaDetect aims to improve milk production with AI. The Halifax, Nova Scotia, company runs deep learning models on NVIDIA GPUs to analyze milk images.

Photo courtesy of Mark Kelly on Unsplash