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Is artificial intelligence the future for the primary sector

There has been a lot of hype around artificial intelligence (AI) over the last couple of years. The advances in AI, machine learning and predictive analysis has come ahead in leaps and bounds, but are we really there yet?

There is little doubt that, in a world now driven by data, that AI will be the next big evolution in technology. Its impact will not just be felt within the tech community, but by every single sector throughout New Zealand.

The primary sector has taken notice and is already preparing for this shift. NZ agritech companies are looking to lead the way and are integrating elements of AI and machine learning into their systems.

“Artificial intelligence will be a major topic discussed at the upcoming agritech event, MobileTECH 2018,” said Ken Wilson, programme manager for the MobileTECH 2018 event.

“This event is focused on promoting innovation through the use of smart data, attracts many of the country’s primary industry leaders, tech developers and early adopters. AI is now at the forefront of technology development.”

Greg Peyroux, Managing and IT Director at Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, is one of the keynote speakers at MobileTECH 2018. He will be providing valuable insights on the development of AI, what is it exactly, and where the primary sector will see the most benefits.

“In time, it is possible artificial intelligence will develop from being an accessory, to being integral to the decision-making processes in our daily lives,” said Mr Peyroux.

A recent report by the US-based Gallup and North Eastern University, found that 85% of Americans are already using at least one of six products with built-in AI elements. These include navigation apps like Google Maps, video or music streaming services like Spotify and digital personal assistants like Siri.

Another report predicts that 38% of US jobs will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence by the early 2030s. The 2017 PwC report also noted, however, that job losses due to advances in technology is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening since the early 19th century and, in most cases, it opens the doors for new jobs, skills and productivity increases.

Initially, Google used machine learning to review images and blur faces, but quickly realised that the technology could be used to automatically provide up-to-date information for their Google Maps app. Much of the same technology is also being developed for the agricultural sector, enabling machines to visually detect, identify and process a range of weeds, crops and fruit in New Zealand.

It would be fair to say that computers are now on par, if not better than, humans at viewing an image and making the right decision based on that image.

The ability for machines to apply deep learning techniques, where mountains of data is quickly reviewed, trends identified and insights generated, is significantly better than in the past.

This technology will provide a massive opportunity for all sectors.

“If you are unfamiliar with machine learning, then a proof of concept may be a good way to evaluate its potential with a possible quick payback,” said Mr Peyroux. “Deep learning is currently dominating computer vision and a number of other key development areas. I’m looking forward to discussing

this further with the industry at MobileTECH 2018.”

MobileTECH 2018 is running in Rotorua on 27-28 March 2018. Further details can be found on the event website,


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