AI: The Future of Farming is Happening Today

Clint Thompson Florida, Research

UF photo shows Assistant Professor Yiannis Ampatzidis.

What was once the future of farming is happening today at the University of Florida/IFAS.

Scott Angle, Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, explains how UF/IFAS is using artificial intelligence (AI) to help producers be more efficient in their farming operations.


“It’s a fascinating issue right now. The University of Florida wants to move into the top 5 for public universities. They’re ranked sixth right now. They believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the tool to do that, as well as, Florida seems to be a great place to become the center of the world for artificial intelligence,” Angle said.

What is AI?

According to the UF/IFAS blog, artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer system to recognize patterns, understand language, learn from experience, solve problems and perform complex tasks. It’s also described as the ability of a machine to think like a human but do it faster and more efficiently.

For farmers who care about every plant and tend to every animal on their farms, AI allows growers to compute millions of variables and coordinate vast amounts of data instantly and accurately.

“Particularly in Florida, where there are many opportunities for artificial intelligence to replace labor and to scout out plant diseases, weed infestations, better weather predictions; these are all things AI can do,” Angle said.

“Agriculture, unfortunately, but now it becomes an opportunity, is behind the curve on artificial intelligence. It’s a technology that’s moving very quickly. We want to make sure that IFAS and the University of Florida is that organization that begins to move AI into agriculture much more quickly than it has been.”

Examples of AI in Research

In the Animal Sciences Department, Albert De Vries’ team uses AI to get more accurate profiles of individual cattle, measuring their phenotypes to aid in breeding and using their genetic makeup to improve feeding efficiency.

In citrus, Yiannis Ampatzidis and his research team use AI-based software to analyze and visualize data collected from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UAVs can take images of thousands of plants and upload to software that analyzes the data to access plant qualities, quantities and growth factors.

In peanuts, Diane Rowland, Agronomy Department Chair, has developed a method using hyperspectral imaging and AI to determine peanut seed quality through the hull. This allows peanut producers to select mature seeds with greater accuracy and less expenditure of time and labor.

In weed research, scientist Nathan Boyd and precision agriculture specialist Arnold Schumann utilize AI to identify weeds in the field and distinguish them from crops. This allows herbicides to be applied only to the weeds, resulting in less spray damaged plants and reduced pesticide use.

“We’ve got people already working on things like, how do count citrus trees in a grove? Or how do you scout for new diseases that have just entered a field and may not be obvious from the roadside. We’ve got lots of people working on this. There’s just so many opportunities that we feel it’s almost unlimited at this point,” Angle said.

“There’s dozens or hundreds of areas where artificial intelligence can play a role; all the way from Extension in providing more accurate information to weather forecasting to disease scouting; things that are often done through very laborious and sometimes not very accurate processes. Artificial intelligence and having the computer to do that takes away a lot of that uncertainty. It could just make us all better farmers.”

To learn more, visit the UF/IFAS AI website.

About the Author

Clint Thompson

Multimedia Journalist for AgNet Media Inc.