Will robots take over agriculture?
January 12, 2018
This week, I've seen a lot of news about robotics and agriculture.
These stories and press releases were about milking robots, mobile dairy farm robots, autosteer tractors, unmanned spraying drones, robotic implements for de-weeding and fresh fruit harvesting and anything else you can dream up.
One of the stories was about AutoCart, a software application that was developed by a company in Iowa. According to the press release from Smart Ag, "The system allows a combine operator to set staging and unloading locations in a field, adjust speed, monitor location and command the grain cart to sync precisely with the combine. After it is loaded, the AutoCart automatically returns to an unloading point elsewhere in the field."
Ag Smart is a company that is directing all of its efforts to autonomous farming.
According to IDTechEX, "Already, thousands of robotic milking parlours have been installed worldwide, creating a $1.9 billion industry that is projected to grow to $8 billion by 2023."
As you can tell by the spelling of "parlour," this company is based in the United Kingdom.
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They also said that the only things that are delaying the use of unmanned autonomous tractors are regulations, high sensor costs and farmers' distrust. However, "This will all change by 2022 when sales of unmmaned or master-slave (e.g., follow me) tractors picks up."
There are also robots that can follow row crops, identify weeds and mechanically hoe them. Supposedly, these robots are already thinning as much as 10 percent of California's lettuce fields.
I don't know about you but I'm not sure this is a good thing.
It will probably help the dairy industry where they are having a hard time finding employees.
But look at the many other jobs that have been lost to robotics. For example, we no longer have anyone to fill up our vehicles with gas, clean our windshields and check the oil. Remember those days?
A long-time holdout to self-serve gas stations was Oregon and New Jersey and now Oregon is allowing it at stand-alone gas stations in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents. That caused a lot of concerns for residents because they think it is hazardous, don't want gas on their clothes and they don't want to blow up.
According to one poster on Facebook, "I had to do it (pump gas) once in California while visiting my brother and almost died doing it."
Then there are the self-checkout lines in the grocery stores. They even make the clerks in some stores direct you to the self-checkout lines. Do those clerks realize that the self-checkout lines are going to steal their jobs?
You would think that all this retail automation would make gas and groceries cheaper, because they don't have to hire as many people, but I don't see that happening.
And, don't get me started on cameras. Maybe I'm paranoid, or watch do many detective shows, but there seems to be cameras everywhere.
Every time I watch one of those shows it is typically camera footage that lead the police to the criminals. The criminals obviously aren't watching these shows, but they should. It might make them think twice before entering a life of crime.
And now they can use drones to spy on us.
What next, robot editors? ❖