ITU, FAO initiate global study to drive digital agriculture

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ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.
ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has unveiled a global initiative to study the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IOT) on improving farming techniques.

The ITU, which is collaborating with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, says the technologies will help with well-informed interventions that ultimately improve agricultural sustainability by helping farmers produce more with less.

In a statement, the organisation says a new ITU focus group dedicated to “AI and IOT for digital agriculture” will examine emerging cyber physical systems as groundwork for standardisation to stimulate their deployment for agriculture worldwide.

“Under the group's purview will be new capabilities to discern complex patterns from a growing volume of agricultural and geospatial data; improve the acquisition, handling and analysis of these data; enable effective decision-making; and guide interventions to optimise agricultural production processes.”

According to ITU, the envisaged study aims to support global progress in areas such as precision farming, predictive analytics for smart farming, the optimisation of cultivable acreage, remote cattle monitoring and management, agricultural robotics and greenhouse automation.

The study, it says, will pay particular attention to the needs of developing countries, where people's livelihoods are most reliant on agriculture.

“Those are also the countries where digital solutions can provide the greatest gains in agricultural sustainability and resilience.”

Dejan Jakovljevic, CIO and director of FAO's digitalisation and informatics division, comments: “New digital capabilities offer us a unique and immediate opportunity to transform food systems and accelerate impact towards zero hunger. The new focus group will significantly contribute towards these efforts, bringing together AI and IOT as key enablers behind new capabilities for digital agriculture."

“The projection that our planet will host 9.7 billion people by 2050 necessitates significant technological progress to sustain so many lives,” says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

“This new focus group is the beginning of a global drive to ensure equitable access to the new capabilities emerging in agriculture with advances in digital technology."

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