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3 Autonomous Hurdles for Agricultural Tech to Overcome

Nowadays the media is awash with artificial intelligence, robots and driverless cars. It seems that the future came sooner than expected and what’s more it came all at once. In the wider scheme of things this has created endless amounts of challenges. The problem is technology advances rapidly where as general infrastructures tend to change very little over time. This has created a drastic need for radical changes across many sectors to keep up with the fast-paced world of technology.

One such area is agriculture. Technology has rapidly transformed the way farmers go about their day to day business, smart tech has even made farming possible on previously unheard of scales and innovated urban farming. It is safe to say that technology is a phenomenal driving force in the farming industry and the world and infrastructure of agriculture is being dragged, kicking and screaming into the new age. Here are the 3 biggest hurdles that Autonomous machinery faces to be fully implemented and practical on farms all over the world.

  1. Legislation and Liability. Ever heard the expression about the wheels of justice turning slowly? Well the same can be said of all law making. It is a slow and arduous process littered with bureaucracy and red tape. Recently regulations were amended and improved on in the aviation area to assist with farmers using drones, however these were still not as comprehensive as they could be resulting in yet more work needed. Regulation normally, is a combination of common sense and averting something that has already gone wrong from recurring. The issue is that very little is known about the risks of autonomous machinery r if there even are any. This makes creating rules tricky. Also, historically, fault would always be apportioned to a person for their wrongdoing. With autonomous machinery the question of who is to blame arises. Is it the machine itself? The owner? The software developer? The manufacturer? Insurers have recently been putting driverless cars through their paces and have been sat down asking these very questions. But because they have not divulged any findings thus far it is all a bit up in the air. Eventually they will need to decide, then we as the consumer will be told and as always abide by that decision. The inherent issue is that the technology is being rolled out fast and that decision might come far too late.
  2. The technology isn’t quite robust enough. In the early phases of any technological break-through there are issues. Little problems are often worked out and if the problems are critical the technology is changed or replaced altogether. With autonomous machinery there is a mountain of fiddly complexities and calculations that the machines are doing. To be fully functional they need to be precise on all of them. That simply isn’t readily available with computers, there are bound to be bugs, glitches or critical failures that will cause the machinery not to perform consistently as expected. Coupled with the very rugged agricultural environment it is safe to say that the technology has many functionality challenges to overcome. The great positive aspect is that when the technology does function it far outperforms previous technology or human workforces. This is why the technology will continue to surge forward as it makes a lot of farmers that use it a lot more money than their less technologically savvy neighbour.
  3. Farmers (people) dislike robots. Since iRobot and other fictional mediums, it is apparent that people are sceptical about the safety of robots. The question of “what if?” becomes a sticking point. Having to relinquish control to the machines seems to be the major sticking point, rather than any other concern. Lobbyists say that robots aren’t safe or that driverless cars will cause more fatalities on the road etc. But, these statements, simply, are not true. A driverless car is free from human error, it doesn’t drink and drive, it doesn’t get distracted by the kids in the back. It functions on a different plain that is governed by rules and safety. The same is true of autonomous machinery. The real issue is that we as humans don’t like to place our fate in the hands of others, let alone a piece of equipment. The media is doing a lot to promote the technology and slowly the attitudes are changing, no longer are we all up in arms about the fact that we might not operate our cars in the future, we are now lukewarm to the idea. Of course, that whole statement is often followed by “it won’t happen in my lifetime”. Unfortunately, it probably will, and it will probably actually happen within the next 10 years.

Smart agricultural technology has come on leaps and bounds, and it is truly amazing that we can now grow more high-quality produce as a result of it. It is only a matter of time before the technology becomes second nature which is why it is so important that farmers make it a priority to get a jump on everyone else. What do you think of robots doing your work for you? Would you trust them with your farm? Maybe, you already have? Let us know in the comments below.

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