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AI vs. Humans in a Strawberry-Growing contest

AI, Emerging Technologies

When farmers competed to grow the fruit with technology including data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, data scientists produced 196% more strawberries by weight and 75.5% more ROI on an average compared with traditional farmers.

The China Agricultural University in partnership with Pinduoduo – China’s largest agriculture-focused technology platform, having the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a technical advisor, organized the inaugural edition of the Smart Agriculture Competition.

As part of this competition, a team of data scientists competed over four months to grow more strawberries remotely using Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. They used the Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms. Imagine this – the team of data scientists was managing the whole strawberry-growing task remotely!

Compared to traditional farmers, the technology-enabled team had a major advantage of being able to control temperature and humidity via greenhouse automation. Using intelligent sensors, the latter also had better control over the usage of water and nutrients for the strawberry plants. Traditional farmers, in contrast, had to accomplish all these tasks manually and from their own experience. And the results, as we mentioned before, were phenomenal. The data scientists’ team produced 196% more strawberries by weight and 75.5% more ROI on average compared with traditional farmers.

The main aim of this competition was to help data scientists and traditional farmers understand each other’s works and explore opportunities to collaborate to everyone’s advantage. The competition was a huge success and one of the participating teams even set up a company to provide its technology to farming cooperatives, thanks to the immense interest it garnered at the competition.

Technology is playing an increasing role in agriculture, enabling farmers to improve their yields and reduce effort & unpredictability to some extent. Studies have shown promising results for technology-enabled agriculture, and this competition just proved its potential once again. An analysis by Accenture and Frontier Economics shows that by 2035, labor productivity in developed countries could rise by up to 40% courtesy of the influence of artificial intelligence, with Sweden, the US, and Japan leading these rises in productivity.

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