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Sask.-developed artificial intelligence technology changing the way farmers look at grain

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology developed in Saskatchewan is changing the way farmers see their grain.

From GPS on tractors to individual controls on seeders, third-generation farmer Chris Procyk says farming is seeing benefits from technological advancements.

“Ag is pretty funny that way,” he said. “It’s been evolving as long as it’s been around and probably seen more evolution in the last 10 years in terms of technology.”

However, one place Procyk is being held back is selling his grain.

For generations, grain quality has been graded at elevators or labs by a human.

“[They’re] looking for any insect damage from midge,” Procyk explained. “There’s usually some colour [to the kernel].”

“What you want to see is these good plump kernels.”

Grain Grading

Wheat that is grown in Saskatchewan has 55 characteristics graders look for.

They can be visual or chemical.

“You can’t visually tell protein [levels],” Procyk said.

For farmers looking for top dollar for their grain, the human eye can be subjective.

“[A grade] can vary from truck to truck, field to field or bin to bin,” Procyk added. “That’s where a machine would go a long ways.”

That’s where Procyk found Ground Truth.Ag.

The Saskatchewan company has taught AI to grade grain.

“The AI is looking at the picture and identifies all the kernels in the picture,” COO Divyesh Patel told CTV News during a demonstration. “Then it looks at each kernel one-by-one.”

A farmer or elevator can pour a sample into the machine and have the grain graded in seconds, taking away the guess work producers have been fighting against for a century.

“Because we have the ability to look at every kernel and assign a very specific damage score to each kernel, our analysis is much more consistent,” Patel said.

Financial Impact

Procyk said the difference of a grade-1 to grade-2 grain, is mere cents per bushel and can be even greater from a grade-2 to grade-3.

Over the scheme of an entire harvest, can mean a loss of thousands of dollars.

“Every increment matters,” he went on to say.

Ground Truth believes the AI system will also create greater consistency among all levels of the supply chain. Allowing grades to remain the same through multiple transactions of the same grain.

“Whenever you load a truck or train, you have to grade it, so those processes can be slowed down,” Patel said. “It will make the whole supply chain move more efficiently. Transactions and grading happen faster.”

Future of AI in Agriculture

Ground Truth.AG CEO Kyle Folk believes these are just the first steps of AI in the agriculture sector.

“Agriculture is no stranger to change,” he said. “Over the last 100 years, we’ve gone through several evolutions.”

“AI has ton of potential and it’s up to us as to what we can imagine and what we can utilize,” Folk added.

Pocyk doesn’t know where AI will take the industry next.

“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “This will be the tip of the iceberg.”

When asked what his grandfather would say about farmers using AI, Pocyk said, “he’d think we’re nuts.”

He added AI could help farmers better trust their process to output the quality grain the world knows Saskatchewan for.

“Quicker information means quicker decisions and more accurate decisions,” Pocyk said. “Then you’re not redoing things because of poor information.” 

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