Innovation That Matters

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Can AI enable safer, more efficient pesticide use?

Agriculture & Energy

AI algorithms and stickier droplets ensure that pesticides land and stay on the desired plants

Spotted: Pesticides play a significant role in food production. According to one study, eliminating pesticides would result in a 78 per cent drop in fruit production and a 32 per cent drop in cereal production. Yet, pesticides are also extremely toxic. Pesticide runoff can contaminate streams and aquifers for years after use – severely endangering animal and human life.

One way to mitigate the damage from pesticide use is to optimise the application, so that only a small amount is being used, and only exactly where it needs to be. This is exactly what AgZen is working on with its RealCoverage platform, which uses AI to make real-time adjustments to spray parameters like pressure, rate, boom height, or speed.

AgZen claims that its algorithms can reduce chemical and water usage by up to 50 per cent. This lowers the cost for farmers, who can use less pesticide for the same crop yield. This also means less pesticide that could contaminate water courses. In addition, AgZen has developed additives to make more pesticide spray droplets stick to the plants they hit – meaning fewer pesticides reach the ground.

The company was spun out of work conducted at MIT by engineer Kripa Varanasi and was officially launched in 2020. AgZen completed 12 successful pilots across the US and Europe in 2023 and plans to launch RealCoverage commercially in a lease-to-own model later this year.

With the global population continuing to grow, improving the sustainability of agriculture is becoming urgent. Springwise has also spotted the use of AI in weed control and microorganisms that can aid in crop protection.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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