You Can’t Spell “Agriculture” Without “AI”

By Avery S. Younis

In a world of rapidly advancing technology, it is no surprise that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made a home for itself in the agriculture industry. While technology may be at the forefront of our minds, food still has a monopoly on our stomachs. The population has doubled since 1974—there are over 8 billion humans to feed on this planet.[1] With growing numbers of people and rising concerns about resources, we are faced with an efficiency dilemma: how do we increase agricultural production without straining our environment? One solution is a more autonomous farming industry.[2] This industry includes self-driving tractors, self-driving combine harvesters, robot swarms for crop inspection, and autonomous sprayers.[3] Data can be collected on crops to adjust for optimal nutrition and flavor, and human labor can be reduced through machine vision and AI that differentiates crops from weeds when applying herbicide.[4]

Most fascinating, however, may be the impact AI is having on dairy cattle farms. As large producers of methane emissions, innovations such as facial recognition, behavioral analytics, and data-driven decision-making can revolutionize the dairy industry.[5] “[AI] spearheads the development of strategies such as dietary optimization to minimize enteric fermentation and the enhancement of manure management protocols.”[6] Facial recognition “facilitates precise identification and health monitoring of each cow, enabling targeted care, swift medical interventions, and alleviation of stress factors.”[7] AI can detect minor facial expressions that indicate discomfort contributing to methane emissions.[8] Furthermore, it can even use subtle cues such as blink rate, curvature of the back, and walking patterns to provide insights into a cow’s well-being.[9]

Aside from facial recognition, Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies are now being used to interpret vocal expressions of cows—their “moo calls.”[10] With AI’s critical insights into cow behavior, we can learn much more about how to promote the health, comfort, and well-being of cows.[11] This enhanced welfare leads to a boost in milk production, emphasizing the “integral link between animal welfare and operational efficiency.”[12]

Although AI appears to be altering the agriculture industry for the better, there are concerns surrounding privacy rights, intellectual property rights, AI generating false information, and antitrust laws.[13] On December 14, 2023, Rep. Randy Feenstra and Rep. David Valadao co-sponsored a bill aiming to enforce standards for AI programs connected to the farming industry.[14] In his press release, Rep. Feenstra stated,

From precision agriculture to veterinary software, the latest developments in agricultural technology—including artificial intelligence—have the power to lower input costs for farmers, protect the health of livestock and poultry, and make farming operations more efficient. However, we must be equally active in certifying that these new technologies, products, and processes work as they should and uphold the highest industry standards.[15]

The bill, deemed the “Farm Tech Act,” calls for the USDA to verify the legitimacy and effectiveness of agricultural software being used across the country.[16] Currently, the Farm Tech Act has only been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.[17]

In the Farm Tech Act, the program to certify software using AI will be based on the Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.[18] As in other industries, AI has created many privacy concerns. To get recommendations, AI will pull data inputted by a variety of farmers using the platform.[19] This has the potential to make farmers’ private data known to all other farmers using the platform.[20] Furthermore, there is concern that AI tools might “blow through these privacy walls” and access a farmer’s data that otherwise could not be lawfully accessed by a person working for a technology company.[21] Regarding intellectual property, it is critical that training data for AI and machine learning is properly licensed from farmers. In addition, there is the looming question of who owns a creative work, such as an AI recommendation, if it is generated by open-source AI tools?[22] Largely, there is a concern that people will make decisions based on bad information—whether it is AI-generated false information or a data set that has been skewed by the intentional input of false data.[23] Lastly, AI technology presents antitrust concerns. While agricultural technology startups in the last ten years have helped to reverse the consolidation trend from the previous 100 years, it is possible that AI developments may serve only bigger farms, limiting the choices of smaller farms and start-ups.[24]

Overall, AI innovation has facilitated great potential for the agriculture industry. As it helps to make our cows happier and healthier, it has also created a more efficient production system and provided a solution to farm labor shortages. Its benefits are numerous, but with them come a variety of concerns. In its quest to tackle AI regulation, Congress cannot neglect the industry that feeds the world.



Image Source: Avery S. Younis

[1] Wendy Gonzalez, How AI Is Cropping Up In The Agriculture Industry, Forbes (Feb. 2, 2023),

[2] See id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Suresh Neethirajan, Green horizons—transforming dairy farming with AI and big data, illuminem (Mar. 12, 2024),

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Suresh Neethirajan, Green horizons—transforming dairy farming with AI and big data, illuminem (Mar. 12, 2024),

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] See Todd Janzen, Understanding the Legal Issues for AI in Agriculture, Precision Farming Dealer (May 24, 2023), [hereinafter Understanding the Legal Issues]; Todd Janzen, Translating AI’s Legal Issues for Agriculture, Precision Farming Dealer (Dec. 12, 2023), [hereinafter Translating AI’s Legal Issues].

[14] See Elizabeth Elkind, Bipartisan lawmakers eye AI safeguards for US agriculture industry, Fox News (Dec. 15, 2023),; H.R. 6806, 118th Cong. (2023).

[15] Press Release, U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), Feenstra Leads Legislation to Certify Efficacy, Legitimacy, and Safety of Farm Technology (Dec. 15, 2023),

[16] Id.

[17] H.R. 6806, 118th Cong. (2023).

[18] Id. at § 2.

[19] Understanding the Legal Issues, supra note 13.

[20] Id.

[21] Translating AI’s Legal Issues, supra note 13.

[22] See id.

[23] See Understanding the Legal Issues, supra note 13.

[24] See Translating AI’s Legal Issues, supra note 13.