A Hard Day’s Work For a Robot

When we consider robotics, we often assume the presence of large machinery, manufacturing, and mundane work where a machine can be more efficient and productive than manual labor.  However, farmers are increasingly turning to technology and robotics to more efficiently manage their own land and increase yield and better navigate shifting demands and needs.  Some of the stresses on farm work include heightened regulations on the use of pesticides while pests are becoming more pesticide-resistant, increase in labor costs, decrease in labor supply, and changing climate.

The global market for agricultural robots showed significant growth in 2018 when growth began to accelerate.  Research firm Tractica forecasts that worldwide shipments of agricultural robots will grow through 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42.1%.  Revenue by 2025 is forecasted to reach nearly $90B.  Some of the areas driving the growth include: driverless tractors, dairy management robots, soil management, forest management,  and field crop management:

Despite the opportunity, some challenges are present.  Awareness of robotic systems among growers is limited and the nascent state of many of the technologies amongst start-up companies may challenge adoption.  The complexity of running machines in a non-managed environment including the complexity of recognizing objects under varying conditions of lighting, weather, and maturity and the difficulty of matching dexterity with speed.  Furthermore, infrastructure and connectivity issues in rural areas also pose challenges.  That being said, overall robotic technology capabilities will continue to improve, expand, and become more affordable in the coming years.

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