Eye on AI - August 14th, 2020
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week, we’ll be returning to two of our more regular topics that have been in the news recently: delivery on-demand and emission-reducing advances in precision farming.
On-Demand Delivery Grows as Service Jobs Falter
We begin with on-demand delivery news, a topic we’ve been keeping a particularly close eye on in this series, with news out of Business Insider that the delivery service DoorDash has rolled out the first line of their new ‘DashMart’ convenience stores, which will stock household items the service promises to deliver to doorsteps in thirty minutes or less.
“The new line of stores comes as the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on business across various sectors, including the restaurant industry,” writes Business Insider contributor Katie Canales. “But on-demand delivery services like DoorDash have experienced success as people are ushered into their homes and restaurant owners cling to delivery platforms as a way to retain business.”
These new platform-hosted stores arrive at a precarious time for the service industry, which has taken a major hit since the emergence of the pandemic. DoorDash had already been eating into the restaurant industry with their Ghost Kitchens, which were unveiled in 2019. And while some were still hoping on-demand delivery companies would serve as a safety net for small businesses with declining in-store profits, it now seems obvious that DoorDash and other on-demand delivery companies have no intention of remaining as middlemen.
“These third-party companies charge commission fees that have posed problems for small business owners long before the pandemic hit, making it more difficult for them to turn a profit and maintain healthy margins,” continues Canales. “But that struggle has been amplified in recent months, and some markets like San Francisco have set temporary commission fee caps as a solution.”
While small businesses worry about big tech closing their doors, service industry workers should be worried about the automation they’re providing eating into their job prospects. According to a recent study by the firm Aaron Allen & Associates, over 80% of service industry jobs are now in danger of being replaced by automation. Watch this space.
New Advances in Precision Farming Weed Out Emissions… and Weeds
Let’s transition to more positive news in precision farming, beginning with a story out of ECOS on FarmPrint, a new monitoring and benchmarking tool being used in Australia that helps farmers profile their emissions output to reduce their carbon footprint.
“FarmPrint embraces a cradle-to-farm-gate approach, measuring not just the greenhouse gas output of on-farm activities, but also the embedded emissions that are found elsewhere in the supply chain – for example in fertilisers, chemicals and diesel,” writes ECOS contributor Ruth Dawkins in her article ‘FarmPrint: a monitoring and benchmarking tool to help farmers reduce their emissions’. “Crucially, FarmPrint allows farmers to assess their environmental performance against regional benchmark data and to monitor environmental aspects beyond greenhouse gas emissions.”
The beauty of FarmPrint is that it acts as a sort of data aggregate, learning from each new farm’s data input to better report on all the farms it’s being used to monitor. Instead of data being used on a single farm, all the data in its system can be used by each customer to understand their emission output and recommend reduction methods.
The concept was first tested on larger farming operations, in order to maximize the amount of data collected. Once enough baseline data was collected, the pilot program expanded to smaller operations. This idea of communal data use for emission reductions is especially important in countries like Australia, with high greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. As Australia moves to meet state and territory commitments of net zero emissions by 2050, solutions like FarmPrint could help farmers quickly reach minimum emissions requirements while increasing their profits.
“When we invest in agriculture it is our intention to uphold and improve soil fertility and other ecosystem services like water availability and quality or biodiversity, such that the continued profitability of the land will both benefit the operational farmer as well as our pension fund beneficiaries,” says Jos Lemmens, Senior Portfolio Manager at AGP, a Dutch Pension Fund Manager, whose clients have stated ambitious targets in the areas of sustainability and responsible investments. “Quantitative data on ecosystem services are very important in managing investments in agriculture. As an absentee landowner it is important to know your investment is managed properly and its qualities remain intact. Without quantitative science-based data it is difficult to assess the effects of the management practices employed.”
FarmPrint hopes to soon develop their technology into a tool that can expand beyone broadacre cropping into every agricultural sector where good baseline data is available, such as horticulture –– if only there were such a tool to reduce emissions beyond agriculture.
For complimentary news on precision farming, check out this article out of ZDNet on robotic crop sprayers that have been trained to identify and map weeds as they move through a field.
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