The Future of Agriculture How Advanced Farming Techniques Changed with Robots and Automation

Today, the global agricultural industry reached record sizes, with 2022 bringing in roughly $18 billion in value for the often consumer-overlooked sector. This number, in fact, only covers direct agriculture, with the total global food and agribusiness amounting to about $5 trillion in a Mckinsey report on possible investment opportunities in the multi-industry market.

Still, it’s no surprise that agriculture has gained such a large market size as food and food by-products remain a cornerstone in almost any market. For a functioning society to continue thriving in its goal of self-sustainability, a proper agricultural sector is likely part of its development plans. As such, farmers, business owners, and even management consultants have looked at agriculture to see how the once very manual processes of the business can be turned into one of efficiency and eventual automation.

Growing Needs For Food

Every day, food remains one of the most important aspects of any individual’s life. For some, food comes in as a necessary resource in order to keep functioning day in and day out. For others, food has transformed itself into an art form, with some industries focused on heightening the culinary and gastronomical theories further into the stratosphere.

All of these different needs coalesce into a consistent need for raw food inputs year-on-year. As of 2022, we are seeing about 3.7 billion metric tons to feed our roughly 7 billion population. With estimates that our population will continue to grow at a consistent rate to reach 9.2 billion in 2050, those keen on this industry better expect this food demand only to grow further.

Yet, on the flip side of this trend is the reality that the world itself is a finite place. With so much of the world already inhabited by our growing population, the amount of arable space for food is already dwindling. In the next few years, we can expect the amount of space needed to even cultivate food enough to meet the demand to go down from 0.45 hectares per person to just 0.21 in 2016. Imagine that the amount of space available to feed a single person has nearly halved in the last few decades alone.

Developments of Farming Across the Years

With our demands only growing and the amount of space available only getting smaller, there appeared a need to develop farming systems that made more efficient each square meter of land available more. Part of these developments arose in the research into genetically modified crops or GMOs. This allowed farmers to have more resilient crops, develop new food types, and even make them easier to cultivate in a shorter period of time.

But this didn’t change the necessity to better manage the crops themselves. Farming itself remains a highly complex system of processes, requiring irrigation, sunlight, fertilizer, pesticide, and more. Without hands-on management, crops can easily fall into disarray which can also mean months of lost work. As the agriculture market for labour continues to dwindle, dropping from 13$ of total US employment to just a measly 2%, the industry needed to look towards other possible alternatives to keep up with a likely growing demand.

The Role of Robots and Automation

Enter robotics and automation, which had been a part of the agricultural industry for much longer than most people might be aware of. As labour continues to be an important factor in this conversation, savvy innovators have begun creating new methods of increasing efficiency per worker. This meant new machinery, irrigation systems, and even post-harvest processors to further improve the quality of outputs.

Yet these tools themselves are of a bygone era of agriculture. Today, farming tools often take the form of smart technologies that can analyze and even prescribe methods of food management to a much smaller base of workers.

Tractors, combines, trawlers, and more, have been a mainstay in a farmer's available tools for faster and more efficient crop management. There is, however, the opportunity for further evolution in these products. Bear Robotics has introduced new technologies that can allow existing farmers to automate their tractors, combines, and other machinery, to better fit an autonomous driving model. With these technologies, farmers and agricultural business owners can better make use of the time saved in further managing other crops and business processes.

Harvesting has its own suite of developments as well, stemming from smart pickers that can properly identify good produce from bad produce, as well as better handling of somewhat fragile produce through innovations like vacuum grips and AI-tracking.

Even the planting of these different crops has received an upgrade from the technology center. Drones are often used by huge multi-national agricultural companies, like Cargill and ADM, and can be fitted with a variety of features that enable a complete oversight of your crop’s production. These include crop status tracking, automatic sprayers, pollination, AI-routinization, and even the security of the space itself. No longer do manual hands need to tend to each individual task that often takes days to complete; smart machinery and automation can manage these problems (sometimes before they even arise).

Important Takeaways On Farmers, Robotics, and Automation

The world of agriculture is often misunderstood in today’s day and age. The average person might think farming and the steps that surround its processes remain fairly antiquated and manual. But with the consistently growing population demanding more and more food, the world of agriculture had to keep up. Beyond just the modification of the crops themselves, the actual processes that farmers were used to requiring evolution to keep up with an advanced and consistently demanding market.

These processes vary in scope and can be applied in many different contexts. From smart tractors to AI-managed drones, the landscape of the farmer has been changed to develop a much smarter oversight beyond what was thought capable before that can hopefully keep up with the world’s growing need for more and more food.

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Published on 

Feb 10, 2023



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