Sister duo heading to Winnipeg to teach kids about artificial intelligence in agriculture

Two sisters who grew up on a farm in southern Manitoba are coming to Winnipeg this summer to teach kids about the future of AI in farming and how to code for it.

Karen Hildebrand and Teresa Vallotton using technology to inspire next generation of farmers

Sisters Karen Hildebrand, left, and Teresa Vallotton run the blog FarmFemmes which aims to promote a technological future for the agriculture industry. (Brooke Clayton/Lil Creek Photo & Video)

This July, tech-savvy kids will be able to learn the basics of artificial intelligence in just a day, as farming educators Karen Hildebrand and Teresa Vallotton bring their AI in a Day summer camp to Winnipeg for the first time.

Sisters Hildebrand and Vallotton grew up on a farm in southern Manitoba and both left to pursue careers in data science and education, respectively. In 2017, they returned to their roots and started FarmFemmes — a blog advocating for the role of women in a technology-rich future for the agriculture industry.

"All of my job has been in artificial intelligence and all of her job has been in teaching, but what really brings us together is agriculture," said Hildebrand.

FarmFemmes has held coding camps to educate the next generation of farmers before, but this is their first time holding them in Manitoba. Despite FarmFemmes advocating for more women in farming, the camps are open to kids of all genders aged 8-16.

At AI in a Day, kids will get to use Chromebooks and the Amazon Web Services cloud platform to practise coding for AI. (Brooke Clayton/Lil Creek Photo & Video)

On July 8 and 9, Winnipeg kids can expect to learn about how AI can be used on farms and practise developing their own models using Chromebooks and the Amazon Web Services cloud platform. Kids will also be introduced to some of the benefits of using AI technology in agriculture industries.

According to Hildebrand, AI technologies like moisture sensors have the potential to reduce water waste by detecting and evaluating a field's irrigation needs and image recognition can pick up differences between weeds and crops to reduce over-spraying of pesticides.

'Feeding the world'

In addition to its sustainability benefits, an agriculture industry rich with AI can have the potential to attract more people to working in the industry, said Hildebrand.   

"We want to make sure that it's clear that there's a ton of ag-adjacent careers. You don't have to be on the farm. You can still be a coder and be creating the capabilities of feeding the world."

On their website, Hildebrand and Vallotton write that FarmFemmes is the product of ideas they've been cultivating for years. In combining Hildebrand's artificial intelligence knowledge and Vallotton's teaching experience, the pair hope to inspire the next generation of farmers.

"We really want to make sure that we bring all of the unique skills that we've been able to learn back to the communities we came from," said Hildebrand.