Former Ag Secretary: Farmers Need Artificial Intelligence to Feed the World

Former Ag Secretary: Farmers Need Artificial Intelligence to Feed the World

Melissa Brandao, a former Apple engineer, wanted to find ways to give back to her rural agricultural community in southern Oregon. Rather than traditional farming, though, she began designing robots to provide farmers with extra sets of eyes, ears and wheels out in the field, writes former USDA head Tom Vilsack and Danielle Nierenberg in the “Iowa View” section of The Des Moines Register on Monday.


Brandao developed such breakthrough innovations as the first autonomous ATV for hauling loads and navigating narrow rows between tightly planted crops. Most recently, she created the HerdDogg system of smart wearable devices for cattle management, which was first piloted with the Dairy Farmers of America. Today, more than 50 farmers nationwide use these tools to monitor and improve the health of their herds.

Her story shows how emerging technologies are not just the province of Silicon Valley or major metropolitan centers; nor are they only for the benefit of major corporations and investment firms. Rather, independent farmers and merchants alike are helping to drive new innovations across the nation’s food supply chain, as stated in the recent “Refresh: Food + Tech, from Soil to Supper” report produced by Google, Food Tank, Swell Creative Group and their partners. It features more than 20 concrete examples of the ways technological innovations are helping not only food producers, but distributors and consumers as well — from farm to fridge to gut.

These innovations are vital to our economy, our society and our planet. They could be real game changers for folks working across the food sector, which supports roughly 28% of all American jobs and accounts for 20% of the total economy, according to a recent Dunn and Associates report.


Read Vilsack and Nierenbergs’ full editorial over at

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