Recently, the field of computer vision (CV) has been gaining traction in agriculture. From reducing production costs with intelligent automation to boosting productivity, computer vision has massive potential to enhance the overall functioning of the agricultural sector.
This article provides an overview of computer vision for agriculture and smart farming applications.
Computer Vision in Agriculture
The agricultural sector has witnessed a lot of contributions when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision in areas like plant health detection and monitoring, planting, weeding, harvesting, and advanced analysis of weather conditions.
Numerous smart farming use cases impact the complete food supply chain by providing useful insights about the entire farming process, facilitating real-time operational decision-making, and enhancing farming practices by introducing on-field smart sensors and devices.
How Computer Vision Is Helpful in Agriculture?
Computer Vision is a subfield of Artificial Intelligence. The emerging technology enables machines to perceive and understand the visual world like humans. Computer vision techniques, in conjunction with image acquisition through remote cameras, enable non-contact and scalable sensing solutions in agriculture.
Use cases include AI animal monitoring, visual quality control, automated inspection of quality standards, or infrastructure monitoring.
AI Technology Trends of Computer Vision
Generally, computer vision works in three basic steps:
- (1) acquiring the image/video from a camera,
- (2) processing the image, and
- (3) understanding the image.
Recently, new deep learning technologies achieved great breakthroughs in the field of image recognition. Compared to traditional computer vision, modern deep learning algorithms are much more robust and allow highly accurate real-time image recognition. Hence, deep learning methods can be used to perform video analytics with the video of common surveillance cameras or webcams.
The latest trends combine edge computing with on-device Machine Learning; a method also called Edge AI. Moving AI processing from the cloud to edge devices makes it possible to run machine learning everywhere, combining IoT and AI to create scalable computer vision applications.
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In the following, we will list some of the most significant AI vision applications in agriculture. Given the recent technological advances, we expect to see many more use cases and large-scale computer vision applications in the near future.
Best Applications of Computer Vision in Agriculture
- Application #1: Computer Vision Systems in Livestock Farming
- Application #2: Computer Vision Systems in Poultry Farming
- Application #3: Fish Farming With Computer Vision
- Application #4: Yield Estimation With Fruit or Vegetable Counting
- Application #5: Security Monitoring for Remote Farms
- Application #6: Achieve Compliance With Animal Welfare Law
- Application #7: Drone-Based Crop Monitoring with AI
1. Computer Vision Systems in Livestock Farming
Food security is one of the world’s biggest challenges. Livestock and poultry contribute to a large proportion (30%) of the daily protein intake through products like meat, milk, egg, and offal. Animal production is expected to increase accordingly to feed the growing human population.
As production is intensified to meet the increased demands, producers are confronted with increasing pressure to provide quality care for an increasing number of animals per management unit. This becomes even more challenging given the expected labor shortages for farm jobs in the future.
Computer Vision systems monitor animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, or others with cameras. Neural networks are used to analyze video feeds in real-time. The advantages of computer vision systems root in the automatic, non-invasive, and low-cost animal monitoring. Vision systems allow information extraction with minimal external inferences (human adjustment of sensors, maintenance) at an affordable cost.
Computer vision is therefore needed for data collection, analysis, and decision-making in livestock farming. The insights help to improve the welfare, environment, engineering, genetics, and management of farm animals through evidence-based facility design and farm management.
Animal monitoring systems provide continuous real-time monitoring and assist producers in management decisions. They also provide early detection and prevention of disease and production inefficiencies. AI vision is able to provide objective measures of animal behaviors and phenotypes as opposed to subjective manual observation.
2. Computer Vision Systems in Poultry Farming
Advanced deep learning algorithms are robust enough to be applied in poultry farming. The term “poultry” includes a range of domesticated species, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, game birds, and ratites (e.g., emus and ostriches).
In poultry farms, computer vision technology aims to prevent diseases and ensure food security while enhancing overall productivity by lowering costs and providing information to increase product quality.
Today, computer vision has been widely used in poultry production systems. It includes house management automation, behavior analysis, animal welfare, disease detection, weight measurement, egg examination, and more.
3. Fish Farming With Computer Vision
Automatic fish detection with computer vision is an important tool in precision farming for achieving automatic fish detection. Especially, deep learning methods have shown great potential in fish species identification, counting, and behavior analysis.
Also, computer vision is rapidly developing to be used in effective intelligent feeding systems. Such systems are based on underwater image preprocessing, fish detection, wish weight and length estimation, fish behavior analysis.
Fish counting is still a rudimentary process in many fisheries. Computer vision based systems provide a cost-efficient method for counting fish with deep learning. Automatic fish counting reduces costs, helps to boost production, and increases labor availability. For example, computer vision has been used for automatic live fingerlings counting.
Related novel use cases for aquaculture enterprises involve analyzing the integrity and safety of fishing nets with deep learning machine learning technology.
4. Yield Estimation With Fruit or Vegetable Counting
Yield estimation is an essential preharvest practice among most large-scale farming companies. It supports decision-making for allocating essential logistics such as transportation means, labor force, supplies, and more. An overestimation leads to further costs that impact profitability; underestimation entails potential crop waste and additional costs. Yield prediction is also used to optimize cultivation practices and plant disease prevention.
Deep convolutional network algorithms are developed to facilitate the accurate yield prediction and automatic counting of fruits and vegetables on images. Modern deep learning methods provide good accuracy even with occlusion caused by leaves or branches, illumination, and object size.
Manual yield estimation with the counting of products such as fruits or vegetables is very time-consuming and expensive. Computer vision approaches can be used for the automatic counting of fruits or flowers. An example is the automatic on-tree counting and yield estimation of kiwifruit.
5. Security Monitoring for Remote Farms
Real-time surveillance and security monitoring for remote farms is another current application of ML in smart farming. Such monitoring and notification systems are of high importance to farms. The images detected with common surveillance systems can be processed by AI algorithms to perform intrusion detection and automatically identify anomalies.
Modern methods use deep neural networks to perform accurate face recognition that is invariant to changes in illumination. This makes it possible to implement deep face recognition in multiple remote farms.
6. Achieve Compliance With Animal Welfare Law
Computer vision systems provide a way to automate regular on-farm monitoring to ensure compliance with animal welfare law. Deep learning algorithms and conditional logic can trigger alarms to trigger corrective actions.
Smart vision systems use AI cameras to provide objective measurements of animal welfare under field conditions. Modern methods are capable of assessing the resources provided to the animals (space, lying substrate, drinker access) and measuring the animals themselves to detect lameness, indicators of injury or disease, and abnormal behaviors. Hence, computer vision provides quantifiable data about animal welfare that can be used to ensure compliance with on-farm animal welfare.
7. Drone-Based Crop Monitoring
Over the last few years, drone technology has gained huge popularity because of its autonomous flying capabilities. Drones have become a significant element in precision agriculture and farming. Because of their flying abilities and cover a large distance, drones can capture huge volumes of data with a built-in camera.
Computer vision algorithms are trained with the captured footage to detect the soil conditions, analyze the aerial view of the overall agricultural land, and assess crop health information based on geo-sensing information. Therefore, the images are labeled with image annotation to create training data for algorithm training. The AI models perform object detection and semantic segmentation to recognize objects and conditions in the drone footage.
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