Autonomous technology and automation are proving disruptive across numerous verticals, including the agriculture industry. Cutting-edge solutions such as driverless tractors, Internet of Things (IoT) temperature and moisture sensors, GPS, and drone technology allow farmers to be far more efficient than if the technologies weren't made available to them.
Although the future appears bright, there are a few issues that need to be addressed, including risk management, legislation, and safety protocols. Safety is a significant area of concern, as farming can be inherently dangerous - but rapid advancement in technology could create potential safety risks for human workers sharing their work environment with these newer technologies.
As noted by Dr. Salah Issa, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department: "The introduction of mechanization in agriculture in the early 1900s transformed farms and surrounding communities. We expect digital technologies to lead to a similar transformation on farms and in many rural areas."
To discuss how technology is disrupting the agricultural industry, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will host the Safety for Emerging Robotics and Autonomous Agriculture (SAFER AG) workshop November 9-10.
Much of the innovative solutions are still in the research and testing phase, so there is room to adjust before they're commercially available. Every product designed to be labor-saving offers both opportunities and possible concerns, which is what the workshop is designed to discuss - pros and cons of the ongoing changes are fair game.
The agricultural robot market is expected to reach almost $36 billion by 2030, as their use expands to cover a wider range of day-to-day activities. Everything from irrigation management, harvesting crops, soil management, dairy management, and other tasks become automated to assist farmers become more productive while tending to their crops and livestock.
In addition to reducing physical human effort, these robots can lower production costs, increase crop yield, and maximize crop quality.