Will AI Replace Farmers? Yes, and No
Agriculture is one of the most essential industries worldwide, and it’s one of the oldest. Since the dawn of time, humans have cultivated land for survival, carefully sowing and harvesting seeds or raising livestock for protein and dairy.
Over the years, the industry has seen significant technological advancements. Hand tools became automated machines, and the small family farm has transformed into large industrial businesses to feed populations worldwide. Agricultural land has become more scarce since the population is growing, but that hasn’t stopped innovative farmers from finding ways to continue producing food.
If all agricultural industries were combined worldwide, it would be about a $5 trillion industry. However, the appeal of farming isn’t what it used to be, and fewer people are interested in taking up the profession. Thanks to technology and artificial intelligence, though, the industry can still keep up and yield more and healthier crops and livestock.
One of the fears among farmers is that technology will take over. Will AI replace farmers? Yes, and no.
How AI Has Advanced the Farming Industry
The fear that artificial intelligence will take over farming has grown over the past years, specifically for those working blue-collar jobs with manual labor. Some machines and technology have indeed taken over processes on the farm. However, these are beneficial as it frees up time and makes the industry more efficient.
Here are just some of the ways AI has advanced the farming industry.
Artificial intelligence uses a series of drones, cameras and other sensors to provide information about crops. This information can tell agricultural workers about crop yields and improve their soil, water and pest management. Additionally, farmers can collect data on livestock, keeping track of temperatures and other indicators that an animal may be in danger or have a disease.
The type and nutrition of different soils can play a significant role in how the crop grows. Some AI technologies allow farmers to identify any nutrient deficiencies. From there, farmers can add soil amendments to strengthen the soil to provide what it needs for the crops.
Pest and Disease Control
Pests affect farmers worldwide. AI systems can use satellite images and compare them with past data to detect if an insect landed and even detect the pest type. Then, the system sends an alert to the farmer to take precautions against pests and diseases.
By using AI, agricultural companies can be more secure with 24/7 surveillance and alarms to alert them of any intruders, including humans and animals. It reduces the potential for destroyed crops and harm to any livestock. Protecting fields can provide farmers with a sense of security so they don’t lose income, too.
Another way AI has improved farming is through water management. Agriculture uses about 42% of the freshwater supply in the United States alone. AI technologies in the ground can help farmers know if plants need to be watered through a moisture sensor. Other AI applications for water management include forecasting so farmers don’t have to waste water through irrigation on days it is supposed to rain.
Tracking and Traceability
The pandemic actually helped tracking and traceability adoption through agricultural supply chains. AI systems can trace various agricultural products, which results in a reduction of inventory shrinkage. It streamlines distribution and has limited waste.
Will Technology Replace Farmers?
Technology has already replaced agricultural workers — to an extent. Robots cannot thoroughly do what human workers do. However, the demand for agricultural workers isn’t being met, which means that industries need someone or something to replace them. That’s where AI comes in, allowing farming businesses to continue growing crops and raising livestock.
AI has allowed farmers to be more efficient and focus more on improving agriculture rather than dedicating themselves to repetitive and debilitating tasks. Besides, complete robot autonomy still isn’t possible. They have trouble distinguishing fruit and vegetable sizes, handling the produce as a human would and finding all the vegetables hidden behind leaves. That’s where the human eye and hand are needed most.
Instead, agricultural workers are hoping to have robots and humans work side-by-side. Workers can ensure the AI systems run smoothly while still providing enough food to feed the global population.
The Future of Farming
The technological revolution has certainly changed farming, but it will never replace all farmers. Humans are responsible for AI, so innovators need to work with the farming industry and take caution so that the world doesn’t become apocalyptic.
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