Alphabet X (part of Google family of companies), said that it is exploring ways to use AI to improve food production. During the MIT EmTech Digital event in San Francisco yesterday, Astro Teller, the head of X didn’t provide many details other than they may be looking at combining machine learning with drones and robotics for farming.
X is Alphabet’s ambitious “Moonshot Factory,” whose mission is to take on projects that they “hope could someday make the world a radically better place.” As the MIT Technology Review writes:
To be worthy of X’s attention, a project must fulfill three criteria: it has to potentially solve a problem that affects millions or billions of people; it has to involve an audacious, sci-fi-sounding technology; and there has to be at least a glimmer of hope it’s achievable within five to 10 years.
I understand that there are a lot of smart people working at Alphabet, and X’s mission is to invent and launch these world saving technologies. But we cover the intersection of AI and Ag here at The Spoon, and we’d love to put a few early stage startups on X’s radar.
First, let’s assume X is already looking in its own backyard. Sister Alphabet company, Google Ventures, has put money into companies like Abundant Robotics, Skycatch, and Farmers Business Network. And I’m sure Alphabet isn’t above synergizing across platforms to effectuate paradigm improvements throughout their stack.
But after that bit of corporate introspection, X can look outward, and we’re here to help. These are some startups we’ve covered that are intelligently using artificial intelligence or robots to improve food production and reduce food waste, and could make a radical impact at scale:
AgShift uses computer vision and machine learning to create objective food quality assessments throughout the supply chain. Using just a mobile phone app, inspectors can make nationwide food distribution more efficient and effective.
SomaDetect combines old light scattering detection tech with modern AI to determine the quality of milk and early spotting of Mastitis, a serious udder infection that is common–and deadly–among cows.
Farmstead is a grocery delivery startup, but it’s AI facilitates optimized inventory stocking in stores to decrease over-ordering (and subsequent spoilage and waste) as well as increased purchases from local sources.
ImpactVision applies its machine learning to hyperspectral images of food to assess quality and freshness to generate more transparency in the food chain.
Augean Robotics built the Burro, an autonomous worker robot that can carry food or tools and follow farm workers around with no beacon, remote or GPS required. Burro also maps routes to become a mobile conveyor belt for more efficient harvesting.
Huxley creates “plant vision” for farmers and growers. Through a combination of AI and augmented reality glasses, information about the types of plants and their various stages of growth can be quickly surfaced in a heads up display.
Of course, if X wants a deeper look into the future of food, we’re hosting our Smart Kitchen Summit Europe in June. Advances in AgTech are sure to be on the agenda.