What began as a 24-hour hackathon involving 21 international teams and more than 200 participants from 26 countries has narrowed to five groups competing to most efficiently leverage artificial intelligence to remotely grow a crop of tomatoes in the Dutch town of Bleiswijk, agricultural media outlet Fruitnet reported.

Why it matters: Feeding its 1.37 billion citizens is one of China’s biggest priorities and it continues to promote the development of agricultural technology to address the vulnerability.

  • Effectively automating greenhouses using AI has the potential to increase horticultural productivity while simultaneously reducing resource use and management complexity.
  • At scale, autonomous greenhouses can produce significantly higher net profits than those managed by humans.

Details: The second Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge, which began in September and is organized by Wageningen University & Research together with Tencent, first tasked participants with creating algorithms that could best manage a variety of variables including temperature, light, and CO2 under simulated conditions.

  • Competitors then pitched a solution for autonomous greenhouse control based on their hackathon results.
  • The five finalists are Netherlands-based AiCU, The Automators, and Automatoes; Korea-based IUA.CAAS; and China-based Digilog, which is composed of employees and researchers from an international group of five companies and three universities.
  • From December to June, the teams will remotely operate a real greenhouse using the algorithms they developed during the hackathon.

Context: Last year’s Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge saw finalists compete to grow cucumbers using AI, with the winner chosen based on net profit from the sale of their crop, the use of AI, and sustainability.

  • Digilog, whose name is a portmanteau of the words “digital” and “analog,” looks to simultaneously advance agricultural technology and “create harmony between technology and human beings.”
  • According to its page on Wageningen University & Research’s website, the team also hopes to host the Australian Grains Industry Conference (AGIC) or the Argo-AI Challenge in Seoul.
  • With China poised to drive the growth of Asia’s agritech industry through 2025, AI has provided useful solutions in other projects looking to save farmers time and resources through automation. For example, drone maker XAG and Bayer teamed up on an AI-powered unmanned aerial system designed to streamline the crop-spraying process for farmers planting on rough terrain.

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