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Separating the wheat from the chaff: identifying the benefits of artificial intelligence

In the last four months a new technology has grabbed online headlines: OpenAI's Artificial Intelligence (AI) ChatGPT. ChatGPT is part of a growing family of AI models known as "Large Language Models" or LLMs (). Major technology companies are now racing to catch OpenAI or to design 'extensions' and 'plugins' which use its API ().

LLMs require many thousands of hours 'training' on the largest computer systems ever built, using as much human knowledge as possible. Essentially, the model is fed the bulk of information which has accumulated on the internet, e.g., Wikipedia, scientific journal publications, digital libraries of magazines, books, movies, music, and art. Once trained and tuned, LLMs can react and respond in real-time to humans who engage in a conversation with them. However, these trainings do not allow it to be 'explainable'. No one can say how, why, or what resources caused the LLM to generate a specific response.

Why should you care?

Whether AI like ChatGPT will be as consequential in our lives as personal computers (PCs) were in the 1980s or the release of Apple's iPhone in the early 2000s, is yet to be determined. It is more likely that LLMs will improve our lives in the same way productivity software like Microsoft Word and Excel has for office workers, or Google's search engine did in the 1990s. For what it is worth, we think LLMs are a massive leap forward, otherwise a transdisciplinary article like this would not be of interest to you.

Perhaps the main reason you may want to use an AI like ChatGPT is that it can save your most valuable asset: time. Early reports are suggesting LLMs like ChatGPT result in a >50% improvement in overall productivity (Noy and Zhang ). What that means is using an AI assistant can help you get more work done in (far) less time.

You should keep in mind that these new AI are best used as tools and assistants to help facilitate the things that you already do, and not to think or make decisions for you. The technology behind LLMs limits their capacity to 'reason' or actually 'think' - they are artificial narrow intelligence (and not artificial general intelligence or super intelligence (), like you have seen on television, in movies, or read about in science-fiction.

Three AI tools to know about?

Amidst the gold rush of investment going into new LLM technology (early investors in Google, Apple, Facebook got rich and that is where capital thinks AI is going), there are three AI platforms you should know about right now and suggest investigating to get beyond the hype:

I. OpenAI ChatGPT

OpenAI has received some of the largest investments in AI over the last five years. It was OpenAI's flagship ChatGPT that captured the world's attention with its unprecedented capabilities and a multitude of functionalities (). ChatGPT is just five months old and has already amassed over 100 million users within two months of its public release, the fastest user base growth of any internet platform in history.

Generative Pre-trained Transformer

The GPT in ChatGPT stands for "generative pre-trained transformer". Transformer models are widely used in all LLMs and can be trained on written language, spoken voices, music, images, and video.

The latest model GPT-4 which powers ChatGPT can provide responses to contextual questions, help write and debug computer code, or write creative essays, sonnets, or poetry. It has aced every major standardized test (OpenAI ). This is especially impressive given its lack of knowledge of “facts” in a traditional sense as more as statistical probabilities of relationships between words and responses.

ChatGPT uses "prompts" to create its responses. By customizing your own prompts, you can narrow down the types of responses that ChatGPT provides. This is a critical step, because ChatGPT is initially drawing from its entire network of trained information. Once you tell it to limit its areas of expertise and to respond in a specifc way it can provide contextual answers with more specificity and relevance.

Researchers have already started to create curated lists of example prompt styles. Check out this list from GitHub: search: chatgpt+awesome

What are some potential uses of ChatGPT for farmers?

Some of the most immediate uses of ChatGPT might seem mundane:

  • Editing text from formal emails or report writing for clarity.

  • Crafting messages or slogans for advertising your products at a market or on a website.

  • Help to justify an insurance claim - companies are already using their own AI to automatically reject insurance claims. You can use ChatGPT to help create a claim.

General writing example: help create an insurance claim

In just a few seconds, ChatGPT can create a checklist and write a sample insurance claim letter on your behalf


I want you to act like an insurance advocate on my behalf. My new John Deere Tractor Mounted Combine Harvester which I purchased this season seems to have a faulty transmission. What can I do to help strengthen my claim before submitting it to my insurer Nationwide Insurance? Can you help me prepare a statement so that when I talk to the agent I can cover all of their questions?


As an AI language model, I can certainly help you prepare a statement and give you some general advice on how to strengthen your claim. Here's a step-by-step process you can follow:

Gather documentation: Collect all relevant documentation, including your insurance policy, the purchase receipt for the combine harvester, any warranties, and maintenance records if available. This will help you provide evidence to support your claim.

Take photographs: Take clear, detailed photographs of the faulty transmission and any visible damage to the combine harvester. This will serve as visual evidence for your claim.

Consult a professional: Have a qualified technician or mechanic inspect the transmission and provide a written report on the issue. This will help establish the extent of the fault, the cause, and the cost of repairs or replacement.

Record a timeline: Note the dates of when you first noticed the issue, when you consulted the technician, and any communication with John Deere or the dealer where you purchased the harvester. This will help establish a timeline for your claim.

Estimate the financial impact: Determine the cost of repairs, any loss of income due to downtime, and other expenses related to the faulty transmission. This will help you quantify the financial impact of the issue.

With this information, you can prepare a statement to present to your insurance agent. Here's a template for your statement:

[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State, ZIP] [Phone Number] [Email Address]


Nationwide Insurance [Agent's Name] [Agent's Address] [City, State, ZIP]

Subject: Insurance Claim for Faulty Transmission on John Deere Tractor Mounted Combine Harvester

Dear [Agent's Name],

I am writing to file a claim under my agricultural equipment insurance policy, [policy number], for a faulty transmission on my recently purchased John Deere Tractor Mounted Combine Harvester (Model: [model number], Serial Number: [serial number]).

I first noticed the issue on [date] when [briefly describe the symptoms or issues you experienced]. I promptly contacted a qualified technician to inspect the transmission, and their report confirmed that [describe the fault, cause, and recommended repairs or replacement]. I have attached the technician's report, photographs of the faulty transmission, and my purchase receipt for your reference.

The estimated cost of repairs is $[amount], and the issue has caused a loss of income of $[amount] due to downtime during the busy harvest season. The total financial impact of this faulty transmission is $[total amount]. I kindly request that Nationwide Insurance evaluates and processes my claim as soon as possible.

I have also contacted John Deere and the dealer where I purchased the combine harvester to inquire about any potential warranty coverage or assistance they may provide. I will keep you updated on their response.

Please let me know if you require any additional information or documentation to process my claim. I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


[Your Name]

Other use cases for ChatGPT might revolve around asking it general questions.

  • Ask what types of crop varieties grow best in a specific geographic location?

  • Help in creating an analysis of data you have collected.

Focus in on a topic: Ask specific questions and follow up

Remember to create prompts which limit the scope of ChatGPT's response pattern

Prompt #1

I want you to respond as though you are the world's most knowledgeable farmer, rely on all of the information you can use from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, and the Old Farmer's Almanac. You will respond with informative, easy to understand responses that farmer's can read on their cell phones.

Response #1

Sure, I'm happy to help with any farming questions you may have! As an AI with access to a vast amount of agricultural knowledge, I'll do my best to provide clear, concise, and informative answers based on the sources you've mentioned. Just let me know what you need assistance with, and I'll be glad to help!

Now, ask ChatGPT a specific question:

Prompt #2

What are the best types of soil to plant corn in Iowa, and when is the optimal time of year to plant sweet corn?

Response #2

The best types of soil for planting corn in Iowa are well-drained, fertile loam or silt loam soils. These soil types provide the right balance of water retention and drainage, and they also have a good nutrient-holding capacity, which is essential for optimal corn growth.

The optimal time to plant sweet corn in Iowa is typically between late April and early May, depending on local weather conditions. It's important to wait until the soil temperature has reached at least 50°F (10°C) consistently, as corn seeds need warm soil to germinate properly. Keep in mind that sweet corn has a shorter growing season than field corn, so you'll want to choose an appropriate variety for your area and plant it within the recommended time frame to ensure a successful harvest.

Remember to check the weather forecast and local planting guides from sources like the Farmer's Almanac and the USDA for the most accurate and up-to-date information on when to plant in your specific region.

The response is still somewhat vague, but we can follow up again with a more focused question about the type of corn in a specific geographic location:

Prompt #3

What types of sweet corn are best for planting in southwest Iowa?

Response #3

When choosing sweet corn varieties for planting in southwest Iowa, it's essential to select ones that are well-suited for the local climate and have a good track record of success in the region. Here are a few popular sweet corn varieties that tend to perform well in southwest Iowa:

  1. Bodacious (Yellow): Bodacious is a widely-adapted, high-yielding variety with excellent sweetness and flavor. It has an approximate maturity of 75 days and produces 8-inch ears with 16 rows of kernels.

  2. Ambrosia (Bicolor): Ambrosia is known for its tender, sweet taste and bicolor kernels (white and yellow). It matures in about 75 days and yields 8-inch ears with 16 rows of kernels.

  3. Incredible (Yellow): This variety is popular for its consistent performance, large ears, and excellent taste. Incredible sweet corn has a maturity of around 85 days and produces 9-inch ears with 18 rows of kernels.

  4. Silver Queen (White): Silver Queen is an old-time favorite with a sweet, tender taste and large ears. It matures in about 92 days and yields 8 to 9-inch ears with 14-16 rows of white kernels.

  5. Honey Select (Yellow): A hybrid variety, Honey Select is known for its high sugar content, tender kernels, and excellent flavor. It matures in about 79 days and produces 8-inch ears with 16 rows of yellow kernels.

When selecting a sweet corn variety, consider factors such as your preferred kernel color, desired maturity time, and any specific disease resistance you may need. It's also a good idea to try a few different varieties to determine which ones perform best in your specific location and meet your taste preferences.

To get started using ChatGPT for free, go to and create an account. Paying $20 per month gives additional features and benefits.

There is also a professional form of ChatGPT which uses OpenAI's API, you pay by “token” and can explore the earlier models of GPT, and leverage many of the external platforms being developed around OpenAI (see HuggingFace below) For novice users there is currently no advantage to this service but the token you get by registering with a form of payment is important for AI method # 3 below.

Create an OpenAI account

OpenAI and ChatGPT

Follow these instructions to sign up for OpenAI and ChatGPT:

  1. Visit the OpenAI Platform website:

  2. Click on the "Sign Up" button in the top-right corner of the page.

  3. Fill in your [institutional] email address, set a password, and give your name in the respective fields.

  4. Check the box to agree to OpenAI's terms and conditions, then click "Sign Up."

  5. You'll receive an email to confirm your account. Click on the confirmation link in the email.

  6. Once your account is confirmed, sign in and visit the ChatGPT page:

  7. Follow the on-screen instructions to access ChatGPT.

For more information, visit the OpenAI documentation:

Create an OpenAI API key

OpenAI API uses an authenticated key for third-party applications and plugins. You will use your API key to power other AI platforms, like those on HuggingFace

Follow these concise instructions to find your OpenAI API key:

  1. Visit the OpenAI website:
  2. Click on the "Sign In" button in the top-right corner of the page.
  3. Enter your email address and password, then click "Sign In."
  4. Once logged in, click on your profile picture or initials in the top-right corner.
  5. From the dropdown menu, select "API Keys."
  6. You'll be taken to the API keys page. Here, you can view your existing API key or generate a new one.
  7. To create a new API key, click on the "Create new API key" button, and provide a description if needed.
  8. Copy the API key and store it in a secure location.

Remember to keep your API key confidential, as it provides access to your OpenAI account and its resources.

For more information on API keys, visit the OpenAI documentation:

II. Microsoft Bing & Google BARD

As with most novel technology the innovation is first seen in expert use stand alone products (e.g. ChatGPT) that must be sought out or is otherwise inaccessible to the masses. Then a popular mainstream version is released that lowers the barrier to entry, but also reduces the features. With an early investment in OpenAI, Microsoft has already integrated GPT-4 into its new Bing Search Engine. When used within Microsoft's Edge Browser Bing chat can respond interactively to your prompts. Other integrations with Microsoft's Office 365 productivity software means that you may already be using its AI CoPilot technology without knowing it.

Google was caught somewhat off guard by the release of ChatGPT. It has since released their own competitor BARD, which has much of the same functionality as Bing. While BARD initially stumbled when it was first announced, the fact that Google handles over 90% of the world's search requests and has control over such a large portion of information on the internet, requires mentioning. Like Microsoft, Google is planning on integrating BARD with their own productivity software (Docs, Sheets, Drive, etc.).

III. 🤗 HuggingFace

More generally, HuggingFace, with its yellow smiley emoticon logo 🤗, is an American company positioning themselves as the place to find and host GPT models, not only those by OpenAI. Thousands of start-up companies and research software engineers are using HuggingFace to feature their custom AI models - many of them for free, or by leveraging OpenAI's API keys.

As of today, there are nearly 180k trained models and 30k datasets for computer vision, audio, natural language processing, and multi-model (e.g., feature extraction, text-to-image generation), available on HuggingFace.

One of particular note is “Paper-QA” in which you can upload multiple .pdf’s or files and query it for answers and even might have it help you write a scientific review.

Most models, such as Paper-QA can be used interactively on the HuggingFace website, and many of them can be downloaded and run locally on your own hardware. Importantly, most of these are open source and freely available for reuse and modification. However, the business model is to charge you for the data processing done (computes). Often for a novice user this amounts to something like $0.02 but it is something to be aware of and track.

Create a HuggingFace Account

🤗 HuggingFace

Follow these instructions to sign up for HuggingFace:

  1. Visit the HuggingFace website:

  2. Click on the "Sign Up" button in the top-right corner of the page.

  3. Fill in your email address, username, and password in the respective fields.

  4. Check the box to agree to HuggingFace's terms and conditions, then click "Sign Up."

  5. You'll receive an email to confirm your account. Click on the confirmation link in the email.

  6. Once your account is confirmed, sign in to access HuggingFace's features.

For more information, visit the HuggingFace documentation:

A New Farmer's Almanac in the palm of your hand

In the coming months to years, new cell phone apps specifically designed for Farming using LLMs and computer vision platforms like those in development on HuggingFace, Google, Meta, and OpenAI will be available.

These apps will use LLM models trained on the entirety of our knowledge. They will be fine tuned for your geographic region and could provide realtime information about everything from feed or seed prices, to weather forecasts, to cell phone camera powered image recognition which can immediately identify weeds, pests, diseases, or measure crop health. These same Apps could then send that information onto other farmers in your Co-op, or request an invoice be sent to your local supply store to prepare a purchase of insecticide or herbicide, all while you're still in your tractor.

The potential for innovation using these technologies is vast, and their ability to help improve farming and agriculture are far reaching.