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Farmers use AI to identify pests, protect crops

Farmers in the United Kingdom have started using artificial intelligence (AI) systems to help monitor their fields and protect them from dangerous creatures — such as animals and insects. 

“It’s pretty much like having a real human sitting here 24/7 and listening when we tell it to listen,” developer Conrad Young said of his Chirrup system, which can identify bird species from recordings of chirps. 

The British-made program analyzes the “dawn chorus,” or the early morning chirping that occurs when birds greet the sunrise. With each successive recording, the program is able to better identify all the birds in the area and help create a detailed database of the total biodiversity in the area. 

Part of the key to the program’s success is that it doesn’t actually look at sound but at a spectrogram — a picture of a sound. The program has a 100-meter radius, according to The Morning News. 

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artificial intelligence farming

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK, Combine harvester harvesting winter barley which after drying will go to brew beer. (Peter Titmus/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The map also includes other types of animals, including insects — far more dangerous pests that also present an issue for farmers who aim to remain organic and want to avoid turning to pesticides to protect their crops

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Farming insects birds

A Nuthatch chick looks on from their bird box at Stover Country Park on May 20, 2023 in Newton Abbot, England. (Harry Trump/Getty Images)

“They tell you what insects are about and obviously we are organic, so we don’t use any insecticides, or sprays or anything like that,” Peter Cheek, a farmer, told the BBC. “So if we have got those insects and the birds are eating them, they are also eating other bugs that are trying to damage the crops.”

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London AI bug farming

Black Soldier Fly larvae inside the Entocycle insect farming laboratory in London UK, on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. The startup wants big business to adopt its insect farming technology. (Carlos Jasso/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cheek said his farm has achieved more healthy soil thanks to Chirrup, which he also noted provided a more affordable option to tackle the issue.

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The program presents a more unique method of crop protection than other similar efforts, such as the use of AI-powered programs to protect endangered animals in Africa from poaching through the use of cameras and more advanced computer vision. 

Another system in Africa aims to use AI to improve crop yields and help the continent handle environmental shocks, such as drought and climate change. 

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