Using robots in agriculture will create jobs

The agricultural industry is looking to technology to solve its challenges such as a labor and food shortage and robots are an important part of that strategy.

By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) July 17, 2019

The agriculture industry is charged with finding a solution to the growing global shortage of food. But with a growing labor shortage as well, farms can’t just add more tillable soil and workers. Agriculture is looking to technology to solve its challenges and robots are an important part of their strategy.

An agricultural shift is underway

Many people don’t picture farmers using technology. The common person would likely visualize a farmer riding a tractor or field workers harvesting crops by hand. With that viewpoint, it’s understandable why many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students don’t see agriculture as a career they wish to pursue. They’re more interested in engineering and computer programming, not hard labor in a field. But agriculture isn’t just farming anymore.

Farmers use technology daily. Automated drones already monitor fields and collect data on crops, and agricultural robots are being developed to do the fieldwork. Robots have successfully planted, tended, and harvested crops. Contrary to popular belief, many college graduates currently don’t possess the skills that agriculture will need in the near future.

To meet the needs of modern agriculture, students will need to pursue STEM learning paths. In order to revolutionize farming technology, students will need training in the use of autonomous vehicles, robotic farming methods, and the design and application of agricultural robots.

Using agricultural robots leads to skilled jobs

Agricultural robots have already been developed and are primed to take over the fieldwork that has long been completed by migrant workers. Robots can perform the repetitive motions of crop tending effectively and precisely. However, that doesn’t mean that humans won’t be needed any longer in the agriculture industry. It just means that new generation farmworkers will need more advanced skills to work alongside robots.

Today’s farmworkers will become tomorrow’s fleet managers who oversee robotic farming systems and autonomous vehicles. There will be a need for the development of devices that control functions of equipment, from turning it on and off via the Internet, to managing controls with smartphone apps. Additionally, the robots will need standard maintenance performed by humans.

Agricultural science and complex decision-making will also still need to be done by humans. Someone will need to build, sell, and repair the machines. Thanks to legislation that has been passed in many areas, farmers can add other activities on their farms to generate revenue. Workers will be needed for these endeavors that include wineries and breweries.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also will continue to collect massive amounts of real-time data on farms. This data, along with machine learning, will keep growing human knowledge about agriculture. The precision of tasks like watering of crops has the potential to provide the industry with more accurate maps of land erosion, crop health, and water run-off. Humans will be making more informed decisions about agriculture than ever before.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online Blog. Robotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner.

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