An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. While we sadly cannot report firsthand on the herb’s taste, the effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture. The researchers behind the AI-optimized basil used machine learning to determine the growing conditions that would maximize the concentration of the volatile compounds responsible for basil’s flavor. The study appears in the journal PLOS One today.
The basil was grown in hydroponic units within modified shipping containers in Middleton, Massachusetts. Temperature, light, humidity, and other environmental factors inside the containers could be controlled automatically. The researchers tested the taste of the plants by looking for certain compounds using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. And they fed the resulting data into machine-learning algorithms developed at MIT and a company called Cognizant. The research showed, counterintuitively, that exposing plants to light 24 hours a day generated the best taste. The research group plans to study how the technology might improve the disease-fighting capabilities of plants as well as how different flora may respond to the effects of climate change.