Pourreza speaks to CNN on the future of AI in agriculture

Farmer in blue overalls, cap and maroon shirt controls a white drone with a tablet. Drone waters crops to farmer's right.

How will artificial intelligence (AI) change the nature of work? How will AI change the labor force in a given industry?

As part of its ongoing series on the promise and peril of AI, CNN asked these questions of a number of experts, including agricultural technologist and CITRIS PI Alireza Pourreza, an associate professor of extension in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis and director of the Digital Agriculture Lab.

According to Pourreza, AI has the potential to transform the agriculture industry by providing farmers with versatile, data-driven tools to make more effective decisions and strategically allocate their available workforce. Crop growth models, AI-powered monitoring systems and automation of labor-intensive tasks are some of the ways that farmers can implement AI to more effectively plan and execute crop production. These changes can reduce waste within farming processes and boost crop yield and quantity. 

AI simultaneously offers unprecedented capabilities for industry and critical uncertainty for the future of labor, and Pourreza stresses the importance of striking a balance between AI and farmers’ expertise in addition to remembering the technology’s limitations. 

“It is essential to recognize that AI cannot fully replace the creative thinking and intuition that farmers bring to their work,” he said.