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How AI technology is helping farmers reduce costs and fertiliser use

How AI technology is helping farmers reduce costs and fertiliser use

In this article, Carlos Gaitan, CEO and Co-Founder of Benchmark Labs, explains how its AI technology is helping to decrease farming costs.

Farmers worldwide are facing increasing costs for a multitude of reasons, including weather variability and extreme events, labour, policy, supply chain and ‘Force Majeure’ events like the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

This conflict impacts the global supply of cereals, thus increasing the costs of animal feed and other derived products.

Furthermore, it is creating a shortage of fertilisers, as a consequence of the ban on Russian exports.

These market dynamics add financial pressure to farmers already dealing with thin profit margins.

As stated earlier, labour shortages and policy and regulatory restrictions also impact costs.

Farm costs

For instance, the lack of sufficient qualified labour to supply local farms increases the average wages of these workers but also encourages farm operators to import labour and offer better working conditions.

These improved working conditions help attract new workers and retain the current ones, but those extra costs affect farmers’ operational margins.

On the other hand, policy changes like removing subsidies and the increasing cost of water resources are forcing farmers to make tough decisions about which types of crops to grow or even question if they should remain in business.

Weather and climate events are also affecting farming operations globally.

For instance, it was reported that the recent (2021) drought in California produced agricultural losses of USD $1.2 billion and 8,700 jobs.

Moreover, as the water levels from the Colorado River dropped last year, local water agencies were paying local growers to leave some fields fallow.

Similarly, a 2017 study from a European-Australian team reported that every year the wine industry suffers losses of more than ten billion US dollars from damaged assets, production losses, and lost profits due to extreme weather events and natural disasters.

AI technology 

Benchmark Labs is an environmental forecasting company specialising in field-specific analytics and forecasts, serving customers in three continents.

We help farmers to reduce their operational costs by providing insights and environmental information relevant to their fields.

Benchmark Labs’ machine-learning-based environmental forecasts, based on dynamical weather forecasting models and in-situ internet of things (IoT) hardware sensors, enable better water and irrigation management decisions, thus conserving water and energy resources.

The company’s technology also helps farmers reduce their fertiliser and pesticide use because the efficacy window of these products is closely related to environmental conditions and because farmers often lack information at the field level.

Additionally, the company offers location-specific alerts to improve farm management activities and labour scheduling.

For example, OSHA regulations in the US restrict labour activities if field temperatures exceed certain thresholds, and spraying applications require low-wind conditions.

Benchmark Labs’ forecasting technology reduces the mean forecasting errors when compared with national weather services.

Benefits 

However, the company also provides a significant improvement in forecasting extreme events, like heat spells or frost conditions.

Overall, all these solutions allow farmers, farm consultants, and high-value asset managers to:

  • Reduce their operational costs;
  • Be more effective scheduling maintenance and management activities;
  • React proactively before extreme weather events affect their operations.

These technologies also help governments to better understand water and energy use and to refine policies that could incentivize natural resources conservation at the farm or agricultural/water district’s level.

Overall, these field-specific forecasting technologies help farmers to:

  • Prepare for extreme events;
  • Plan day-to-day and weekly management activities;
  • Comply with or adjust to policy changes;
  • Reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides affected by global supply chain restrictions.

See its website

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