The next moonshot for Alphabet’s X division might be in agriculture as it investigates how to apply artificial intelligence to food production. While in its early days, Astro Teller revealed that the research division is also interested how drones and robotics could be leveraged.

Teller, who leads X, revealed the new frontier at a conference hosted by the MIT Technology Review today. Food is not a new exploration for X, with the Alphabet division once looking into vertical farming, but killing the project after not being able to grow stable crops like grains and race.

The company, however, did make advancements with automated harvesting and efficient lighting. Meanwhile, X last week participated in a Global Food Security Symposium.

Details on the current approach are light, but Teller cited how machine learning could be used to help farmers better plan in the light of the increasing challenges posed by climate change and augment their existing experience. This includes when to harvest, irrigate, or grow in light of changing weather patterns and pests.

Meanwhile, drones and ground-based robots could also be used, with X currently home to Project Wing delivery drones and Project Loon internet balloons. The division is also looking into robotics where there is already a ML-focus to solve “humanity’s big problems.”

As the Technology Review notes, agriculture very much lines up with X and its mission of finding projects that could impact millions to billions of people and be achievable in the mid-term.


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