Here’s a headline I didn’t expect to see: “Microsoft Bringing AI to Ag.”

From the author of that headline in Farm Journal:

“Standing before a crowd of farmers at the 2018 Farm Journal AgTech Expo, keynote speaker Josh Henretig voiced what he believed a lot of farmers were thinking.

“Why is someone from Microsoft, the company that brought you Windows Office and Xbox, standing in front of you today?” asked Henretig, senior director artificial intelligence (AI) for earth for Microsoft.   

“One of the answers, he said, is that Microsoft views the planet as the ultimate operating system and that information technology, in particular artificial intelligence, can help the company monitor, model and respond to the need to help feed the planet and address global health issues. He notes that Microsoft leaders see the company’s role in the process as “unchanged” from its core business model and can “provide the connective tissue to enable the technology ecosystem to tackle these challenges.”  

The desire to provide that connective tissue is one of the reasons Microsoft established the AI for Earth Program, which was funded with $50 million and a 5-year commitment from Microsoft President Brad Smith in December 2017.”

Read the full story

It’s times like these, when a major industry player like Microsoft starts to get interested in agtech, that cause me to think… maybe we’re on to something here.

But there’s more to this than just social proof.

The truth is, we already know that agriculture is in the middle of a major disruption, driven by new technologies, that is radically changing the industry from top to bottom. Cloud computing, CRISPR, location tracking, big data and more are already here, and artificial intelligence is just part of this wave.

But it’s a particularly interesting part.

Just think about what AI could do for planting and harvesting. How efficient the farm could get when, instead of relying on a farmer’s instincts and schedule, all planning could be generated and run via AI?

Real-time water and fertilization scheduling? Check.

Adaptive harvest based on weather patterns? Check.

Crop development based on market need and pricing? Check.

It’s an exciting time to be in agtech and I’m excited to see what Microsoft and others bring to the space.