Jeff Heepke knows where to plant corn on his 4,500-acre farm in Illinois because of artificial intelligence (AI). He uses a smartphone app called Climate Basic, which divides Heepke’s farmland (and, in fact, the entire continental U.S.) into plots that are 10 meters square. The app draws on local temperature and erosion records, expected precipitation, soil quality, and other agricultural data to determine how to maximize yields for each plot. If a rainy cold front is expected to pass by, Heepke knows which areas to avoid watering or irrigating that afternoon. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted, this use of artificial intelligence across the industry has produced the largest crops in the country’s history.
Climate Corporation, the Silicon Valley–based developer of Climate Basic, also offers a more advanced AI app that operates autonomously. If a storm hits a region, or a drought occurs, it adjusts local yield numbers downward. Farmers who have bought insurance to supplement their government coverage get a check; no questions asked, no paper filing necessary. The insurance companies and farmers both benefit from having a much less labor-intensive, more streamlined, and less expensive automated claims process.
Monsanto paid nearly US$ 1 billion to buy Climate Corporation in 2013, giving the company’s models added legitimacy. Since then, Monsanto has continued to upgrade the AI models, integrating data from farm equipment and sensors planted in the fields so that they improve their accuracy and insight as more data is fed into them. One result is a better understanding of climate change and its effects — for example, the northward migration of arable land for corn, or the increasing frequency of severe storms.
Applications like this are typical of the new wave of artificial intelligence in business. AI is generating new approaches to business models, operations, and the deployment of people that are likely to fundamentally change the way business operates. And if it can transform an earthbound industry like agriculture, how long will it be before your company is affected?
An Unavoidable Opportunity
Many business leaders are keenly aware of the potential value of artificial intelligence, but are not yet poised to take advantage of it. In PwC’s 2017 Digital IQ survey of senior executives worldwide, 54 percent of the respondents said they were making substantial investments in AI today. But only 20 percent said their organizations had the skills necessary to succeed with this technology (see “Winning with Digital Confidence,” by Chris Curran and Tom Puthiyamadam).
Read the source article at Strategy-Business.com.
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