Robohub.org
 

How will farmers and robots work together?

by
03 February 2017



share this:

Cows in stable wait for food from red feeding robot

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the vision I’ve laid out in this blog is ridiculously successful, and, over the next few decades, robotic devices take over all aspects of tending land and crops and handling material inputs and produce, and do it using increasingly sustainable practices that begin the process of retaining and enhancing biological diversity and reviving overworked soils. What’s left for farmers to do? Will there even be a need for humans on farms?

Well, in that improbable scenario, once the process has run its course and there’s no room left for qualitative improvement, and the machines are self-repairing and the algorithms are self-optimizing for constantly changing conditions, perhaps, strictly speaking, the answer would be “no, not really, not a need in the sense of an indispensable component.” A farm so equipped might run itself for months or years at a time without human intervention.

There are two problems with this, however. First, that level of automation is unlikely to happen in the lifetime of anyone reading this, and for the foreseeable future there will be need for human involvement in design and management decisions, making use of their own senses in combination with data to drive improvements, as well as filling in the gaps in the perceptual and physical capabilities of the machines.

The other objection has no expiration date. It’s about whether a human presence brings anything valuable to land husbandry, and ultimately whether people are allowed to forget where their food comes from, such that, if all of the machines were to suddenly shut down or break, no one would have a clue as to how to proceed. There will always be a need for humans who understand why the machines make the choices they do, and that understanding will always be best achieved when augmented by being physically present, walking fields, examining details with a magnifying glass, experiencing the sounds and smells directly, and lending a hand with some of the work, even when it could be done faster and more precisely by one of the machines, just to have the experience of participating in the process.

Without such people who remain deeply connected to the land and our use of it to act as interpreters, those who live in urban areas will have only feeds from the machines themselves and will probably lose interest, and perhaps also lose the will to maintain support for environmentally responsible policies in the face of periodic calls for austerity and ever-increasing efficiency. Actually, we’re faced with that challenge right now, so maybe there are already too few people on the land, or those who are engaged in farming don’t have the time for learning about all of the ‘extraneous’ factors not obviously relevant to their low-margin agribusiness operations, or for acting as interpreters for others.


If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read:

See all the latest robotics news on Robohub, or sign up for our weekly newsletter.



tags: , , , , , ,


John Payne





Related posts :



Robot Talk Episode 88 – Lord Ara Darzi

In the latest episode of the Robot Talk podcast, Claire chatted to Lord Ara Darzi from Imperial College London all about robotic surgery - past, present and future.
07 June 2024, by

Robot Talk Episode 87 – Isabelle Ormerod

In the latest episode of the Robot Talk podcast, Claire chatted to Isabelle Ormerod from the University of Bristol all about human-centred design and women in robotics.
31 May 2024, by

Robot Talk Episode 86 – Mario Di Castro

In the latest episode of the Robot Talk podcast, Claire chatted to Mario Di Castro from CERN all about robotic inspection and maintenance in hazardous environments.
24 May 2024, by

Congratulations to the #ICRA2024 best paper winners

The winners and finalists in the different categories have been announced.
20 May 2024, by

Robot Talk Episode 85 – Margarita Chli

In the latest episode of the Robot Talk podcast, Claire chatted to Margarita Chli from the University of Cyprus all about vision, navigation, and small aerial drones.
17 May 2024, by

What’s coming up at #ICRA2024?

Find out what's on the programme at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.
10 May 2024, by





Robohub is supported by:




Would you like to learn how to tell impactful stories about your robot or AI system?


scicomm
training the next generation of science communicators in robotics & AI


©2024 - Association for the Understanding of Artificial Intelligence


 












©2021 - ROBOTS Association