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AI for Sustainable Development: How AI tools and technology are helping grow the food we need

By Dawn Bishop - Alcea Content Writer

In the third and final article in our sustainable development series we're looking at some of the different ways AI tools and technology are helping grow food with, precision agriculture, the new focus in global farming.

This is a complex and multi-layered area however, the impact for sustainable development is huge. In this article we're going to introduce a variety of precision agriculture techniques and AI tools being used now to support this industry, including;

  • AI-powered drones

  • AI-powered irrigation systems

  • Predictive analytics for weather forecasting

  • Supply chain optimisation

  • Green finance

  • Green bond issuance and portfolio management

And, for each area, we’ll be sharing a brief overview of the area and examples of AI tools available to support the work in those areas. But first, let’s get an overview of what sustainable development is.


What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development is a way of meeting our current needs without harming the ability of future generations to meet their own. It's about finding a balance between our desire for economic growth and social progress and our need for environmental protection.


Can AI help us manage our world sustainably?

AI has the potential to be a game-changer for sustainable development. For example, by analysing complex data, AI can predict environmental issues, optimise resource use, and develop renewable energy and conservation solutions. However, responsible implementation is key to ensure AI helps us, not hinders our efforts towards a sustainable future. AI has the power and potential to help us all better look after our planet and ourselves.

What is precision agriculture?

Precision agriculture is the practice of using data and technology to farm smarter, not harder. By tailoring inputs like water and fertilizer to specific parts of a field, farmers can boost yields, reduce waste, and protect the environment. AI enables farmers to tailor their approach to each individual crop and field with unparalleled precision. By harnessing data from satellites, drones, sensors, and weather forecasts, AI algorithms provide real-time insights into soil health, crop conditions, and pest threats, allowing farmers to optimize resource allocation and minimize environmental impact.

AI-powered drones

AI-powered drones equipped with sensors and cameras gather detailed data on crops, allowing farmers to identify issues like pests or nutrient deficiencies early and apply treatments with pinpoint accuracy, boosting yields and reducing waste.

  • DJI Agras Series

These drones are equipped with advanced sensors and AI capabilities for crop spraying, mapping, and monitoring. They provide precise applications of fertilizers and pesticides, reducing waste and improving yield.

  • XAG V40

XAG's drones are designed for smart agriculture, equipped with AI for autonomous flight, precise spraying, and real-time data collection, optimizing crop management practices.

AI-powered irrigation systems

These can precisely deliver water to crops based on their specific needs, conserving water resources and reducing runoff.

  • CropX

CropX is a company that provides advanced soil sensing and analytics solutions. Their system integrates real-time soil data with AI to optimize irrigation practices.

Predictive analytics for weather forecasting

AI-powered weather forecasts give farmers hyper-local insights into upcoming conditions, enabling them to plan activities like planting, irrigation, and pest control for optimal crop health and yield.

  • The Climate Corporation (FieldView)

Utilises AI to analyse weather data, providing farmers with insights on how weather patterns affect their crops and helping in planning and decision-making.

Supply chain optimisation

  • Llamasoft (Coupa)

Llamasoft, now part of Coupa, provides AI-powered supply chain analytics and optimisation solutions. Their platform uses machine learning to model and optimise supply chain operations, offering insights into demand forecasting, inventory management, and network design.

  • Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software)

Blue Yonder utilises AI and machine learning to optimise supply chain processes, including demand planning, inventory optimisation, and logistics management. Their platform offers end-to-end supply chain visibility and predictive analytics.

Green finance

Green finance unlocks funding for AI technologies in agriculture that promote sustainability.  These AI tools, like precision irrigation and disease detection drones, can then optimize resource use and reduce environmental impact.  By fostering this cycle, green finance helps agriculture become more eco-friendly while AI fuels its efficiency and profitability.

  • MSCI ESG Research

MSCI provides AI-driven ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) ratings and analytics, which are crucial for assessing the sustainability of investments. Their tools help in managing portfolios with a focus on green bonds and other sustainable assets.

  • Refinitiv ESG Data

Refinitiv, an LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) business, uses AI to provide comprehensive ESG data, analytics, and indices, which are vital for green bond issuance and portfolio management.

AI tools for loan underwriting for sustainable projects

  • IBM Watson Financial Services

IBM Watson utilises AI to enhance loan underwriting processes by analysing vast amounts of data, including ESG factors, to assess the viability and sustainability of projects.

  • Zest AI

Zest AI applies machine learning to improve loan underwriting by incorporating non-traditional data sources and ESG criteria, ensuring loans are granted to sustainable projects with lower risk.

AI tools for fraud detection in green initiatives

  • ThetaRay

ThetaRay uses AI and machine learning algorithms to detect and prevent fraudulent activities within green finance initiatives by analysing complex transactional data and identifying anomalies.

  • Darktrace

Darktrace employs AI to provide real-time threat detection and response, protecting green finance initiatives from cyber fraud and ensuring the integrity of sustainable investments.

Pulling everything together

AI holds immense potential to assist in achieving sustainable economic growth across various sectors, from agriculture to optimising supply chains, to finance. By harnessing the power of AI-driven precision, efficiency, and foresight, businesses and policymakers can unlock new opportunities for innovation, productivity, and resilience while advancing the goals of environmental sustainability and social equity. As we continue to navigate the complex challenges of the 21st century, AI will undoubtedly remain a key enabler of progress towards a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for all.

Alcea Consulting Limited is a boutique AI consultancy helping businesses in any industry improve their ways of working, hit targets, and solve problems using AI tools and technology.

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