How Has Automation Impacted Farming?

October 26, 2020

One of the biggest watershed moments in human history was the development of agriculture. The ability to engineer the environment to produce enough food to sustain massive population growth has been one of the human race's most outstanding accomplishments. The advent of agriculture has led to a wide variety of advancements including prepared food, self-driving machinery, basically the development of human civilization as we know it. 

Even though agriculture has moved us forward during the past 10,000 years, there is another Turning Point arriving. The global population is projected to reach close to 10 billion people by 2050. Therefore, the agriculture industry will have to increase food production by about 70 percent from current levels to sustain this population growth. Enter the development of automation, robotics, drones, and computer vision software, which are transforming modern agriculture as we know it. The technological advances are going to be necessary to keep up with the world's rapid population growth. 

The Definition of Farm Automation

Farm automation is closely tied to "smart farming". This is technology that makes farms more efficient, automating the livestock or crop production cycles. Countless companies are working on robotics, engineers are developing drones, automatic tractors, automatic watering systems, and seeding robots. Even though these technologies are relatively new, they are already having an impact on farming as we know it. 

The Applications of Automation Technology in Farming

There are a few ways that automation technology is already impacting farming. These include: 

  • Harvesting: Harvesting fruits and vegetables has always been time-consuming. Now, harvesting robots, such as Agrobot, are able to gently harvest a variety of crops, including strawberries, without bruising them. Using a flexible mobile platform, robotic manipulators can work together to pick fruit and vegetables, maintaining the quality of the produce as they go. 
  • Tractors: Autonomous tractors are able to be controlled remotely. For example, there is an autonomous tractor called the Rabbit Tractor that delivers farmers the ability to increase efficiency and product yield. There are more advanced automation kits that are currently being produced that might lead to pre-programmed tractors, which are even more autonomous.
  • Planting and Weeding: Robotics are already being developed for seeding and weeding practices. Weeding robotics can be incredibly accurate, reducing pesticide usage significantly thanks to advances in computer vision technology. This provides farmers with a new method that they can use to prevent herbicide-resistant weeds from growing in their crops. A company called PlantTape has developed a system for automated plant transplanting.

These are just a few of the numerous examples of automation technology in farming.

The Advantages of Farming Automation

Some of the major advantages of farming automation include: 

  • Consumer Benefits: Consumers prefer sustainably-produced products, which automation technology can provide.
  • Labor Costs: With numerous labor shortages, the cost of labor is going up. Robots can automate routine tasks, reducing labor costs.
  • Environmental Benefits: Farm automation has the ability to reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture while also saving time and money.

Given the numerous advantages of automation technology, farming and agriculture are only going to become more attractive investments in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens next in the world of farming automation.

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