Smart farming, the combination of agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), will help tackle the various challenges of food security, and usher the happenstance of a new world. It will also change what international food security means.

We present here some of the features of the new “international smart food security”. What follows is an open access extract from our premium article “Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and the Future of Agriculture: Smart Agriculture Security?” part (1) and part (2).

Smart agriculture, new dangers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has foreseen the various dangers smart agriculture faces. Thus, it supported the publication of the report Threats to Precision Agriculture (2018 Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program, Oct 2018). Interestingly, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) – i.e. the top official body for the U.S. Intelligence Community(1) – also supported the report. This double involvement corresponds to two developments for the future.

Smart Agriculture, through its “smartness”, will face a whole new range of threats. The first type belongs to domestic security – hence the involvement of DHS. It is concerned with attacks that may be qualified of criminal, as well as with technological problems and unintentional fragilities. The second type of threats belongs to the world of international politics. Actually, we must also consider a third type of threats, as possibly resulting from climate change.

Practically, the three types of threats may converge. For example, international actors may use – or disguise as – domestic criminals for their design. Criminals and international adversaries – or enemies – may take advantage of the impact of climate change on smart agriculture. They may also seek to intensify such possible adverse effects.

On the front-line

Defence for smart agriculture

Feeding one’s people is a crucial part of the security that political authorities have to deliver. We explained in detail the corresponding security-related political processes and provided a political science bibliography in The Chronicles of Everstatenotably “Rising Discontent” and “Seeking Security“. The quality of the food delivered also impacts the “ruled”. Thus, both food and food production, henceforth agriculture, are crucial components of power in an international setting, and a stake for national interest.

Hence, food and agriculture may also, in case of war, become deliberately targeted by enemies. As a result, defence, as the U.S. very well understood when the ODNI supported the report Threats to Precision Agriculture, needs to fully incorporate smart agriculture. The smartness of the agriculture creates new vulnerabilities. It also has the potential to enhance power, as we shall see below. Thus, the very smartness of the agriculture increases the need to include smart farming within a proper defence policy and strategy. Conversely, attacks in case of war may also consider targeting smart agriculture.

Elements of international smart agriculture security

First and obviously, it will be crucial to ensure smart agriculture security while also thinking that foreign malevolent actors can carry out the attacks. Moreover, it will be necessary to make sure that components of smart agriculture bought abroad do not introduce vulnerabilities.

For example, considering the importance of communication for IoT, thus smart agriculture, the battle surrounding Huawei and the 5G becomes even more relevant. Indeed, agriculture and food security are so important that it is impossible to authorise threats to it, including because of sub-optimal technical standards (UK Cabinet Office and National security and intelligence, “Huawei cyber security evaluation centre oversight board: annual report 2019“; among others, Ellen Nakashima, “British spy agency delivers scathing assessment of security risks posed by Huawei to U.K. telecom networks“,The Washington Post).

Meanwhile, as also highlighted in the DHS report, we need to pay attention to possible “competitive” foreign actions. Indeed, these could impact relative power placement. We can imagine competitors obtaining farming data or crops data to take various types of market advantage. Worse, we may also imagine competitors taking aggressive actions to threaten the integrity of crops, again for international market advantage.

The smartness of agriculture as power

Furthermore, the very smartness of the agriculture will also become an element of competition and power. “Smartness” will be declined along all the drivers of artificial intelligence (AI), namely: algorithms, big data, computing power, quantum information science, sensors and actuators, and finally usages (seeArtificial Intelligence – Forces, Drivers and Stakes). For example, we can apply here what we explained for high power computing in more general terms, while giving examples for defence (see Artificial Intelligence, Computing Power and Geopolitics – 2).

Finally, those actors who will be best able to master with excellency each and every driver of AI within the smart agriculture domain will be at the top of the international relative power distribution for food security. Meanwhile, they will see their overall international power ranking enhanced in other domains, through AI capillarity.

Then, food is a crucial component of power. Thus, position in terms of international smart food security will impact the international ranking and influence of actors. It will affect their potential strength or, on the contrary, weakness.

As a result smart agriculture is many times vital to national interest. Mastery of and excellency in smart agriculture may well be crucial keys of the future international order.

In the premium article :

  • Read more about domestic threats and climate change induced dangers to smart agriculture.
  • Find out more about what is smart agriculture, how various companies include AI and which type of AI within it.
  • Discover what the case of smart agriculture suggests regarding those key actors for the future development of AI.

Notes

(1)“The Director of National Intelligence serves as the head of the U.S. Intelligence Community”. S/he oversees and directs “the implementation of the National Intelligence Program”. S/he acts “as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security”. (ODNI website – “Who we are“)

Featured image:  Marine Corps – 160218-M-BF136-001.jpg by: Jennifer Gonzalez [public Domain]

About the author: Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues. Her current focus is on Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Science, and Security. She teaches at Master level at SciencesPo-PSIA.

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