Is agriculture ready for autonomy?

Autonomous and robotic applications are expanding rapidly into agriculture and will look to become widely adopted by the farming communities. As we see it at Farms Advice the implementation of new technologies is what is holding back agriculture at the moment. With various business enterprises skeptical about how digital agriculture will impact their bottom line. Over the decades we as a community have not been worried about the few one-percenters escaping our grasp as we go year to year. Now with more available technology to harness and store the data we have collected over the years it will allow agribusinesses to make an informed decision and possibly lead to automating some of their processes.

From partial autonomy of complex machinery operations to fully autonomous monitoring and application using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), new uses of technology for agriculture are emerging almost on a daily basis. The new edition of the Australian Farm Institute’s Farm Policy Journal looks at a range of issues relating to the adoption and use of robotics and autonomous systems in agriculture.

“These systems are not unique to agriculture, and indeed other sectors with more advanced autonomy are both pointing to potential uses of the technology while also providing signals about the complexity of regulation and social acceptance,” said AFI Executive Director Richard Heath.

Digital agriculture offers one of the most promising approaches to address the challenge of sustainably increasing food production by 70% by 2050 (from 2010 production levels). Using the latest advances in AI and machine learning, farmers can be empowered with predictions that can improve farm processes, from planning until harvest. Satellite data and remote sensing techniques can provide agricultural insights, by using advanced image processing algorithms and AI algorithms on multiple spectral bands
in satellite imagery to estimate crop health.

Yet while robotic and autonomous agricultural technologies are increasingly available, they still may fail to be adopted. Cognitive barriers to adoption may include: inability to generate trust, loss of farming knowledge and reduced social cognition. In addition, the potential legal consequences of the introduction of autonomous machines and technologies into Australian agriculture must be considered. As autonomous and robotic equipment use increases, so too will the rate of incidents or accidents involving such equipment.

“There are clearly many developing and complex issues to deal with before the widespread adoption of autonomous systems on-farm is achieved,” said Mr Heath. With food security high on the world’s agenda, attention is being drawn to the power of new digital and autonomous technologies to increase
agricultural productivity. Several useful assessment frameworks and methodologies are proposed in the papers in this journal to assist with the ongoing development of autonomous agricultural technology. “The robots are indeed coming,” said Mr Heath, “and the ideas and recommendations contained in this journal will ensure that they are coming to help.”

This was a press release from the Australian Farm Institute. If you have a press release that you want to reach the right audience, get in touch with us here at Farms Advice. Helping out agribusiness across Australia to make ease of innovating, implementing technology throughout the supply chain process.