How Automation is Transforming the Farming Industry

The development of agriculture was a watershed moment in humanity. Humans ability to engineer the environment to generate enough food to sustain massive population growth was the first profound change in the relationship between fully-modern humans and the environment. The advent of agriculture kickstarted a wider range of advancements from the use of fire and prepared food to self-driving machinery.

With a global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by at least 70% from current levels to serve nutritional trends.

Agriculture has moved us forward us so far in 12,000 years, but we are now at a turning point. And with a global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by at least 70% from current levels to serve nutritional trends. Now more than ever, the pressure on farmers to produce nutritious products is putting our planet's health under even more stress.

New advancements in technologies ranging from robotics and drones to computer vision software have completely transformed modern agriculture. Farmers now have access to tools that will help them meet the demands of our world's ever-increasing population.

What is farm automation?

Farm automation, often associated with "smart farming", is technology that makes farms more efficient and automates the crop or livestock production cycle. An increasing number of companies are working on robotics innovation to develop drones, autonomous tractors, robotic harvesters, automatic watering, and seeding robots. Although these technologies are fairly new, the industry has seen an increasing number of traditional agriculture companies adopt farm automation into their processes.

Advantages of farm automation

Farm automation technology addresses major issues like a rising global population, farm labor shortages, and changing consumer preferences. The benefits of automating traditional farming processes are monumental.

1. Consumer Benefit

Consumers preferences are shifting towards organic and sustainably-produced products. With automation technology, produce reaches consumers faster, fresher, and more sustainably. Increase in productivity from automation increases the yield and rate of production, therefore reducing costs for consumers.

2. Labor Efficiency

Labor is over 50% of the cost to grow a farm and 55% of farmers say they are impacted by labor shortages. Because of this, 31% of farmers are moving to less labor-intensive crops. However, there is huge potential with harvest robots. Routine tasks can be automated with robotics technology, reducing labor costs and manpower needed amidst a labor shortage in the agriculture industry. A single strawberry robot harvester has the potential to pick a 25-acre area in 3 days and replace 30 farm workers.

3. Reduced Environmental Footprint

Farm automation practices can make agriculture more profitable while also reducing the ecological footprint of farming at the same time. Site-specific application software can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizer used while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

How Automation is Transforming the Farming Industry

Still, there are challenges of farm automation that must be overcome. High costs to adopt robotic technologies presents a huge barrier to entry for farmers, especially in developing countries. For example, robotic planters must carry water or pesticides with significant weight; the hardware must be built differently, which results in higher costs to make it a larger size. Technical issues and breakdown of equipment also present high costs to fix for such specialized equipment. In order to fully utilize farm automation, farmers will need to combine their knowledge and experience with these new technologies.

Looking Ahead

We are only at the early stages of farm automation technology, but it will be able to transform agriculture. It offers a path towards sustainable and more efficient agriculture by advancements of technologies, production systems, and software. Every year, automation technology becomes more sophisticated, and what was cutting-edge just a few years ago will become commonplace and cost-effective soon. The human element will always be a fundamental aspect of managing a farm, but fully autonomous vehicles and farm equipment are coming.