Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic in recent months thanks to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. While everyone is marveling at the technology for passing law exams, AI has long had the ability to feed us.
Source.ag, a Netherlands-based agriculture tech startup, announced on Thursday it raised a modest $23 million Series A funding round for its AI platform that predicts the best growing conditions for greenhouse plants.
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AI has been deeply seeded in agtech for a long time. At least $400 million poured into AI-powered agtech startups in 2022 per Crunchbase data, though I suspect the number is higher based on how ubiquitous AI applications are in the space.
Agriculture’s love affair with AI
Due to the irregularities of climate change, extended drought seasons and supply chain issues, feeding the world’s 8-billion-and-growing population is perhaps one of the most pressing problems of our time. These factors add to the rising cost of food.
That’s where AI comes in — several companies use it to predict weather conditions, adjust and save water, and detect diseases that can kill crops.
One of the most common uses for AI is indoor farming. Source.ag’s technology works in greenhouses to adjust water and humidity conditions, making the growing process more efficient and leading to greater yield. Greenhouse growing requires less arable land (a dwindling resource across the world) and less water, making it more resource-efficient than traditional farms.
We’ve touched on this topic before.
Last year, Soli Organic raised $125 million to grow a variety of plants indoors using automation to adjust for temperature and a special “secret sauce” soil that maximizes yield. The company is in the process of peppering indoor farms close to cities around the U.S. in hopes to drive down transportation costs and preserve freshness.
Gotham Greens, another indoor farming startup based out of New York, raised $310 million last year to use water-saving hydroponics technology in its vertical farms.
While AI is busy being unhinged on Bing and copying artists, agtech is a good reminder that the technology raises fewer ethical concerns when it’s not pretending to be human.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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