Tillage farmers in Canada are currently using drones with mounted cameras to gauge disease levels and frost damage in a range of crops and such technology is set to play an increasing feature on European farms, according to Ontario-based farmer and feed compounder Jay Johnston.

“But driving all of this is the availability of artificial intelligence software which allows the computer systems involved to acquire a predictive capability. This allows the IT to take on a proactive crop management role within a very short period of time.”

Johnston said that artificial intelligence is a technology that will play an increasing role within agriculture, primarily where repeated management operations are required.

“Animal identification is another case in point,” he said.

“Link a camera to a computer with the required software and it is possible to quickly identify an individual animal, wherever it is located and whatever its posture.

“This then allows the computer to segregate specific animals and carry out other basic management operations, as and when required.

“At a very basic level, this approach gets round the cost of expensive electronic ear tags.”

Johnston recently spoke at a business breakfast hosted by the Northern Ireland Institute of Agricultural Science.

He predicted the growing use of artificial intelligence software as a dynamic management and analysis tool within the agri sector.

“We have developed a gas fermentation system to evaluate the feed value of the different straights and TMR rations submitted to our feed mill.

“But, increasingly, we are using artificial intelligence-based computer systems to speed up the analysis and prediction processes.

“For example, within two hours of an analysis commencing, we can now predict with 92% accuracy the final performance-related attributes of each feed sample submitted.

“Initially, we were waiting 48 hours to get the final result. But using the artificial intelligence-related software that is now available allows us to give farmers and nutritionists almost real time analytics on the rations they are feeding.”