Daniel McCann and his team were working on an artificial intelligence (AI) app that could automatically write an online sales listing for objects that were photographed on your phone. As they worked on the idea, they continuously tested their technology on a houseplant in their office. They discovered that although the AI was okay at identifying objects, it was exceptional at identifying different types of plants.
“We changed directions. What if you could apply this functionality to agriculture? What if you could identify all of the plants in the field and only spray the weeds instead of the crops?” shares McCann.
The team of eleven began to create the first artificially intelligent drones in the world to fly over crops and spot-spray weeds. They also created a ground-based sprayer for fields with a lot of weeds.
“There is governmental and social pressure on farmers to reduce chemical use, yet chemicals are required for farmers to get good yields and ultimately feed the world,” McCann explains. “We can shift the practice from chemical weed protection where we spray the entire field and 80 percent of spray hits the dirt, to a precision AI-based weed protection where we only spray the weeds.”
Not only will this innovation significantly lessen the amount of chemical required for each field; there will also be major benefits for farmers. “Instead of spending $600,000 on a high-clearance sprayer, you can spend a tenth of that on a drone that will work without your supervision and throughout the night,” says McCann. “Not to mention, this solution will provide significant savings on the cost of spray.”
The revolutionary idea is in the final stages of field trials and will be commercially available in the spring of 2020. “This technology is very challenging, the drone has to move fast and identify weeds on the fly,” adds McCann. “It’s a little insane to try this but I have a pretty smart team figuring it out.”
Pricision.AI intends to build their company from their Saskatoon and Regina offices. “Saskatchewan is an agricultural leader in the world and the expertise here is world-class,” finishes McCann.
Published by Innovation Saskatchewan