It is very difficult to define conventional farming methods with precision. Agriculture can be generally perceived as a very conservative industry, yet this does not mean the sector lacks the dynamism evident in other industries, such as cars or computing. New techniques and technologies are evolving continuously, where these might be adaptations or fine tunings of conventional systems.
What we are currently witnessing is the revival of traditional systems combined with the introduction of completely new and innovative techniques and technologies. And this is having a transformative impact on how we represent the farming world.
Naturally, robotics obviously falls into the innovative techniques and technologies category. However, robotics can be employed to improve the management and overall efficiency of conventional farming methods. We might see more traditional methods become more attune to modern techniques; this is more of a case on farming’s evolution, where the good supersedes the bad and thus develops into something new and improved. The by-product here could be some kind of farming hybrid, combining the best methods of both conventional and modern farming to provide the fittest solutions for the industry to survive and flourish.
By and large, robotics will be employed to reduce some of the routine tasks conventionally used in traditional farming, such as milking dairy cows and tractor operations. As robotics can perform human tasks more efficiently, both in terms of time and cost, it will inevitably have an impact on employees.
We might see a straightforward substitution of robotics for labour. Conversely, farmers might release employees to invest in their own enterprise, whether this is growing specific crops, or developing innovative farming models or methods to inspire the rest of the industry.
Labour is a key issue for small-scale farmers who are out in the fields from dusk till dawn and at the mercy of the elements. New technologies, including robotics, will potentially alleviate these pressures. Robotics will be able to reduce intense labour hours, enabling those skilled farming technicians to carry out their job roles more effectively and efficiently.
Inevitably, this will see a huge change in job roles. However, the image of a traditional, typical farm worker is quite hazy. Sadly, there is a huge cultural misunderstanding of what the farming industry looks like from an external perspective. On one side of the trench is the consumer whose general image of farming constitutes combine-harvesters and tractors. And on the other, there are a specialist group of experts who are consistently providing innovative ways to farm; both in terms of following the digital age’s demanding rhythm and in terms of responding to real issues such as climate-change. Outdated images are in no way contemporaneous with what farming’s actual image is, and do a massive disservice to the famers at work right now.
In order for this image to change, our global culture needs to be taught a lesson on what farming can and will be, where the development of robotics is a key way to illustrate and celebrate farming’s evolution. Robotics has the potential to ensure efficient enterprise management; minimising labour costs and maximising crop potential. And this understanding really needs to filter out into the public’s consciousness, in order for consumers to gain the necessary insights into modern farming and the origins of what they survive on – food.