27 / March / 2024 : 16-34

How farmers get replaced by AI in agriculture and what advantages do rotobs have over them ?

Standing in a lush green field in the American Midwest, a farmer points his smartphone at one of his soybean plants. He snaps a photo of a pest crawling a leaf, then lets an AI-driven program name the species of the bug, and whether it's a cause for concern. Technology like this might sound like a novelty – but it is vital.Across agriculture, a dearth of workers is threatening the viably of the industry, both in terms of profitably and crop yield. One of the biggest issues is simple: farmers are getting older. Many can't take on the sun-up-to-sundown manual labour needed to effectively run a farm. And while many these operations have been family-run for decades, younger generations aren't taking the reins from their elders as they once did, instead opting for jobs in less labour-intensive, better-paying industries. The hired labourers who make up the rest of the agricultural workforce, largely immigrants, are following these patterns, too.To solve the problem – especially as the worker pool is not only thinning but also getting more expensive, and crop yields are declining – some US farmers are looking to emerging robotics and AI tools. "We think about solutions to solving that problem, and we do think that advances in technology could help ease some of the labour load," says Buckman.Artificial intelligence in agriculture is not wholly new: nascent iterations have been in use for two decades, like auto-steering guidance systems to row crops such as corn. But AI take-up in the past few years has been swift; according to some estimates, 87% of businesses in the US agricultural industry were using AI in some shape or form as of late 2021. The federal government, too, is currently fast-tracking the agriculture industry towards the tech, providing financial incentives to speed up development and deployment of AI across the country.
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