In the Farm

How Artificial Intelligence is Helping Farmers in the Field and Indoors

Bowery Farming

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a part of our lives, and has been for longer than many of us realize. At Bowery, AI is one of the critical tools helping us scale up our solutions for global problems such as food insecurity and resource-efficient agriculture.

What is artificial intelligence?

AI is commonly defined as a machine’s ability to perform cognitive functions we associate with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with the environment, problem solving, and even exercising creativity. Some of the emerging technologies that enable AI to solve such agricultural problems include robotics, autonomous vehicles, computer vision, and machine learning.

How is this helping us make the planet more sustainable?

AI is tapping into so many industries as an integral part of finding a solution for climate change. For example, AI technology is helping to create more accurate forecasts of wind and solar power, which not only helps bring more energy into the grid, but also grows the renewable energy market.

Why we think AI is one of the coolest things impacting the agricultural sector 

From agricultural robotics to soil and crop monitoring and predictive analytics, AI is becoming an integral part of modern agriculture. Companies like Blue River Technology are enabling farmers in the field to optimize their planting and herbicide usage thanks to computer vision. Trace Genomics is helping them detect early signs of disease.

And while these are just a few examples of emerging technologies that unlock smarter farming, the agricultural industry as a whole is tapping into AI to address the larger issues at hand, such as the overconsumption of freshwater resources, overuse of pesticides, biodiversity loss, and fragmented supply chains.

How Bowery’s implementing AI for scalable solutions

At Bowery, we grow indoors, which provides us sustainable and scalable advantages. However, with thousands of crops growing at the same time — each with its own set of environmental preferences — our farms present a complicated decision-making challenge.

Fortunately, our farm operating system, BoweryOS, serves as the central nervous system at each Bowery farm and offers plants individualized attention. It works by collecting millions of data points through an extensive network of sensors and cameras that feed into proprietary machine-learning algorithms that are interpreted in real time.

This essentially means that BoweryOS can simultaneously identify an unhappy arugula plant that needs more light while also alerting our modern farmers that several trays of bok choy need to be harvested tomorrow. It gets smarter with each grow cycle, gaining a deeper understanding about the conditions each crop truly needs to thrive.

BoweryOS, unlocking the right “crop recipe”

At Bowery, we refer to the environmental conditions that plants need to flourish as “crop recipes.” Traditionally, a farmer’s crop recipe would involve ingredients such as seeds, fertilizer, harvest season, and geographic location of the farm itself.

Indoors, we include an entirely new set of granular factors: spectra of light, photoperiod (day/night cycles), intensity of light, irrigation schedules, nutrients, airflow, temperature, humidity, and CO2. We can control these variables indoors and adjust them hour by hour (or minute by minute) to optimize for plant health and, ultimately, flavor.

Farm Data Bowery

In our farms, we use machine-learning algorithms to help us search through the high-dimensional recipe space, concurrently testing a multitude of small factors to further hone in on the most effective recipe. The recipes with the highest rates of success are further refined and then scaled automatically throughout our farms.

This method of using AI allows us to test, iterate, and scale scientific exploration at a pace not previously achievable in agriculture. Our ability to learn — and scale that learning — is tied to the number of farms we have and, subsequently, the amount of data we collect, rather than the size of our R&D team.

Bowery Farming Computer Vision
Computer vision identifies crop health issues on a tray of arugula.

AI = Efficiency for All 

Artificial intelligence is often an unknown and misunderstood subject, but it is important to raise awareness for all the good it is bringing to the world. From helping us reduce energy consumption to helping an indoor farm uncover a more sustainable crop recipe, it’s making humans smarter than ever before while helping us inch toward a happier planet.