While the Monsanto name is nearly synonymous with lawsuits and controversies, when it comes to its particular combination of technology and agriculture, its new endeavor with Atomwise, an AI developer in the medical field, could change pest control for farmers in the future.
AtomNet, Atoms’s deep learning AI, normally analyzes molecules to assess their potential for prescription drugs and disease treatments. However, Monsanto wants to use the powerful program to narrow down options when it comes to managing harmful insects, fungi, and bacteria that can damage crops and threaten food supplies. Traditionally, this job would be done with a series of trial-and-error test for every single potential substance or combination of chemicals, a process that can take years.
“Each growing season, farmers around the world are challenged with yield-robbing pests and diseases, yet the average crop protection product takes up to 11 years and more than $250 million to commercialize,” says Jeremy Williams, Monsanto’s Agricultural Productivity Innovations Lead, on the Monsanto website. “Discovering new solutions is critical, and this collaboration will help bring much-needed crop protection solutions to farmers faster.”
At the same time, AtomNet will be able to examine not only possible interactions with soil, water, and other agriculture products but also any adverse effects on beneficial and benign insects and animals, an important consideration given Monsanto’s history with DDT and other chemical toxins.
According to Dr. Abraham Heifets, CEO of Atomwise, helping save cops is another avenue of healthcare where AtomNet can be valuable: “Feeding a growing population is an urgent priority for global health that calls us to use every available technology. We are taking everything Atomwise has learned fighting deadly human diseases with artificial intelligence and using that knowledge to combat the destructive pests that plague our food supply.”
Through this partnership, both companies are entering new territory by combining AI and agriculture to ensure a brighter future for farmers across the world.
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