Technological innovation has been a major driving force in transforming industries, and the agricultural industry is no exception. It has and continues to play a vital role in increasing agricultural productivity and promoting the development of agriculture. In the past, technology was met with skepticism in the industry, but over time it has become a strong factor in enhancing growth, productivity, and farming practices. The technologies that have had a major influence on agriculture are automation and robotics. These two technologies have revolutionized the art of farming and have helped increase revenue across the agricultural industry.
The importance of automation and robotics in agriculture
The pandemic has forced the world to rapidly adapt to change and this new normal has had the agricultural industry on its toes too. According to Research and Markets, “The Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of robotics and automation technologies in agriculture. Robotics company Root AI recently raised $7.2 million in seed funding bringing the company’s total funding up to $9.5 million.”1 The need of the hour is to sustain the agricultural industry and enhance food security. The most convenient way to sustain this growth and provide millions with food is through integrating automation and robotics in the farming operations. As stated by Linly Ku, Marketing Manager of Plug and Play, “With a global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by at least 70% from current levels to serve nutritional trends.”2
Modern technologies like harvest automation, autonomous tractors, seeding and weeding, drones, etc., have transformed modern farming and are satisfying the needs of millions of consumers across the globe. The implementation of automation and robotics have addressed major issues like labor shortage, consumer preferences, increase in crop production, etc. In the long run, the use of these technologies will provide a more efficient and sustainable path for cost-effective agricultural practices.
Smart farming a piece of good news for food security
Standing for long hours, planting crops, and harvesting them can be a tedious task. But thanks to technology, we reap the benefits of the crop while technology takes care of the remaining aspects. Despite having the best technology, the problems besetting farming systems grew with the increasing impact of the pandemic. The disruption in the supply chain and the lack of risk management posed a major threat to the agricultural industry. As a result, modern farming started getting adopted more vigorously. According to Arzum Akkas, a professor of operations and technology management at Boston University, “There was already a trend for automation and mechanization before the pandemic, and the extra labor shortage risks due to COVID-19 will accelerate automation adoption. Automation can assist the farming industry in three ways, the first is in reducing labor costs substantially. Second, you are faster and can generate more output for a given period of time, meaning a reduction in cost per unit. And the third component is mitigating risk. COVID-19 has created and will continue to be a risk problem with regards to the availability of labor. By switching to automation, you are controlling that risk.” 3
The pressing issues that farmers are trying to solve are the shortage of food and labor, and technology stepped in to address these issues, thereby enhancing food security. Modern farming techniques and technologies like agribots (agricultural robots), artificial intelligence, field sensors, geo-positioning, data analytics, etc. have deeply influenced agriculture, increased the revenue and growth of the industry, and established the same for the long run.
The new normal in the agricultural industry
The demand for agricultural robots will see an increase of 24.1% until 2024, according to a recent business and commerce study by Transparency Market Research.4
Automation and robotics are becoming more affordable and effective across the agricultural industry, the demand in the global agriculture robots will multiply at an impressive CAGR of 24.1% during the forecast period of 2016 to 2024. The need to increase yields and reduce costs are some of the major drivers for the agriculture industry to adopt these technologies. Several agricultural research studies have shown that crop productivity is the largest contributor to revenue and it is of utter importance to maintain the same irrespective of the varied disruptive factors.
The agricultural industry is intrinsically connected to our daily lives. Despite the challenges it faces in terms of rapidly increasing population and limited availability of land, it is forced to continue. However, the implementation of such cutting-edge technologies solely depends on the number of funds and learning to master the art of using them. On the other hand, we are looking ahead to a whole new phase in farming and the two ways that it will not just survive but thrive is through robotics and automation. Automation and robotics are becoming more sophisticated, and what was cutting-edge just a few years ago will become commonplace and cost-effective soon. They have already embarked on a revolutionary journey and will continue to play a significant role in meeting 2050 agricultural production needs.5