Global Agriculture

The first AI virtual assistant for sustainable farming

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07 April 2021, California: In the same way virtual assistants help us discover our next favorite song, Biome Makers has developed a software package that uses advanced machine learning to help farmers and agronomists pinpoint what their crops and soils need to boost yield in a sustainable way.

The scientific teams of Bayer Crop Science and Biome Makers tested and disclosed the first application of this groundbreaking technology on bioRxiv, the preprint repository operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The study and resulting scientific paper details the analysis of the soil microbiome to assess effectiveness of Bayer´s biological fungicide Minuet®. Specifically, machine learning software allowed Bayer CS to predict potato yield improvement before application of the input. The predicted result was a yield bump of up to 40% in one of the fields tested in Idaho.

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“It’s a unique approach to utilize soil biology and optimize the use of crop inputs moving forward towards sustainable and economically favorable solutions to improve crop productivity,” said Varghese Thomas the project leader at Bayer CS.

Agronomists should be happy. This technology is a giant leap forward for them who, up until now, have lacked the data required to accurately determine biological solutions for their seasonal soil and crop decisions. Soil is a valuable asset to increase crop yield and quality, but as it currently stands, agronomic recommendations are based on little knowledge of the biological processes occurring in it. But today, with the availability of an AI virtual assistant to help predict the effect of different solutions is game-changing, and progress towards a more productive and sustainable agriculture system.

AI is an ever-evolving resource and, as such, is currently being “trained” to resolve other farming concerns as well, including questions about produce shelf-life, nutrient quality of the produce, and projected carbon credits based on the use of different products or management practices. Input manufacturers can add their own, custom solution to the AI recommendation system by testing it under the strict Gheom® field trials protocol, a service Biome Makers offers.

Gheom® is a microbialbased protocol for field trials

Biological solutions are an effective tool for increasing yield and crop quality while reducing environmental issues, which is why transparency is crucial in the world of biological inputs. Many promises are made about the positive impact of these inputs, but farmers and agronomists lack independent and reliable tools to assess their real effect on soil health.

That’s where Gheom® comes in. It is designed to accurately gauge biological product efficacy by analyzing the most meaningful bioindicator in nature: the soil microbiome. This is a vital service Biome Makers offers to ag-input manufacturers in their pursuit of credibility and complete transparency. This, in turn, will create even more options for the farming community to deliver a sustainable food supply.

Today, international companies that produce biostimulants, soil amendments and biofertilizers are using Gheom® to test solutions. For instance, Terravesco is a California manufacturer employing this protocol to analyze their organic worm-based soil amendment. Dr. Paul Zorner, Chief Agronomist for Locus Agricultural Solutions says, “We are very excited to be working with Biome Makers. They have a remarkable platform for truly beginning to understand metagenomic functionality as it relates to soil health. You can’t optimize what you can’t measure, and we feel that the Gheom® platform is a significant step towards unraveling the elegant aspects of microbial soil ecology and its impact on crop productivity”.

Similarly, LIVENTIA is assessing how their microbial biostimulants based on microbial consortia impact the ecological balance of soils, promoting effects like root growth, nutrient uptake, and stress tolerance to boost yield and crop quality. Likewise, Fertile Ground is another company sourcing the program to validate their product performance. Other companies like Sustainable Growing Solutions or the European manufacturer, Bioiberica, are already using protocol results to confirm the functional claims of their products for different crops such as vineyards, lettuce, or olive trees.

“This data-driven assistant is a game-changer to upgrade agronomic advice on fertilization and crop protection programs, including biologicals, in an integrated management approach” states Juan Jose Chavez, the Product Manager for Advanced Analytical Services in DISAGRO, the international crop input retailer based in Central America.

As the biological input market segment grows, it is becoming the “Wild West” of ag products and its players are working actively to dispel skepticism left over from the past. As crop input manufacturers adopt the use of Gheom® protocols, it instills a much-needed rigor with measurable independent data into the evaluation and claims associated with crop inputs. Gheom® is truly a market-changing tool to deliver food security and sustainability.

Microbial Soil Profile technology is a great investment for agriculture

New ways of evaluating biological crop inputs are highly valued by manufacturers, growers and regulators alike. These technologies are similarly attractive to investors for their short development timelines and low development costs compared with synthetic chemicals. Result? A rapidly evolving sector projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6%, reaching a value of $18.9 billion within the next five years.

“Combining this breakthrough technology with the entire toolbox of precision agriculture, such as self-driving tractors and precision spraying applications, allows us to imagine a bright, new future of secure and sustainable farming worldwide,” said Alberto Acedo, Chief Scientific Officer at Biome Makers.

The recent joint publication presented by Biome Makers and Bayer CS is much more than a scientific demonstration. It offers a new perspective on crop input efficiency and sustainable agriculture, with lasting implications on how traditional agronomists and retailers recommend products as well as how farmers manage the long-term health and productivity of their fields.

Currently, select growers in the US and EU can test the recommendation system with complimentary functional soil analytics for their fields.

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