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Google may put robots and AI in charge of food production

Google’s parent company Alphabet is looking at ways to involve artificial intelligence and robotics in food production.

The firm’s secret lab, X, believes that machines and machine-learning could be used to improve farming techniques and crop yield.

Speaking at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference this week, Astro Teller, the head of the X lab, said they might one day be able to use machine-learning technology to make better decisions on things like irrigation and finding the right time to harvest crops.

Related: Ex-Google chief jokes about AI ‘death-scenarios’

He added that the technology has the potential to help crops that are being grown in environments where climate change is making it more and more difficult to accurately forecast weather patterns.

After being asked if ground-based robots and drones have a place in Alphabet’s vision, Teller reportedly said that “it’s really early [but] it helps to have machines very close to what they’re looking at.”

However, he also took care to stress that farming is enormously complex, and that the company is yet to look at any particular approaches in great depth.

According to the UN, we lose 20-40% of crops to damage caused by pests and diseases each year, and any sort of reduction on that could prove hugely beneficial. Alphabet’s team has its work cut out.

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