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The AI Paradox In Global Food Supply Chains

Exponential population growth, restricted natural resources, climate change, diminishing arable land, and lack of farmers all contribute to the current global food insecurity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), international food prices reached an all-time high in February 2022, and the number of people facing food insecurity globally increased by an estimated 32% in 2021. People see AI as a potential answer to all these problems experienced throughout the globe as it is considered a more efficient, viable and resilient solution. Nonetheless, it may create other problems throughout the supply chains…


Companies Offering AI Solutions

  • Iron Ox

Based in California’s Silicon Valley, Iron Ox is an agriculture technology startup with deep expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence. The company’s mission is to make growing fresh produce carbon-negative. Iron Ox has redesigned every step of the farming process, from seed to store shelf, achieving levels of precision that are impossible through conventional farming. Iron Ox produce is delicious, nutritious, sustainable, and local, greatly reducing food waste and reducing the footprint of farming.


Iron Ox recently announced it has closed a $53 million “Series C” funding round, led by new investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Iron Ox, which launched autonomous farming in 2018, grows to produce in proprietary greenhouses designed from the ground up to mitigate the environmental impacts of agriculture — a data-driven approach backed by plant science, robotics and artificial intelligence.

  • Certhon

Certhon is no stranger to high tech horticulture. Certhon engineers and manufactures turnkey, tailor-made solutions for the most high-tech horticultural projects, anywhere in the world. Certhon has more than 125 years of experience in horticulture and is based in the Netherlands. With 150 highly trained and experienced experts, the company has all the know-how and technologies under one roof to enable entrepreneurs to grow anything, anywhere. Certhon focuses on large-scale greenhouse projects, DayLED growing, and robots; and tomorrow, they’ll deliver Yield-as-a-Service.


The Certhon Harvest Robot is the result of a partnership between DENSO and Certhon. DENSO’s iterative improvement combined with Certhon’s ingenuity ensures the knowledge and experience to deliver some of the most technologically advanced growing systems available today.

  • Root AI (Acquired By AppHarvest)

Root AI is an artificial intelligence farming startup that creates intelligent robots to help manage high-tech indoor farms. The acquisition of Root AI and its robotic universal harvester, Virgo, was expected to provide AppHarvest with a baseline of harvesting support working alongside crop care specialists focused on more complex tasks. AppHarvest expects the game-changing advantage of the technology to be in the data the robots can collect as they harvest, which can help evaluate crop health, precisely predict yield and optimize overall operations of the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) facility.


Though Virgo can work indoors or out, the robot’s focus has been on controlled environment agriculture. Over the past three years, it has collected the world’s largest data set of tomato images to enable it to identify more than 50 varieties in multiple growing environments and at varying stages of maturity to learn how and when to harvest.


The Paradox

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the total employment of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers will decline by 1% between 2020 and 2030, with an average of 84,000 job openings each year. Though artificial intelligence is considered to enhance efficiency in facilities, questions remain as to what to do with the jobs destroyed?


Some economists would consider that “removing” a job will create others. As Schumpeter argues:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is an essential fact of capitalism. It is what capitalism consists of and what every capitalist concern has got to live in.


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