We know precision agriculture is going to be a key component of the future of the fruit and nut industries. It’s no secret that labor is becoming harder to come by and growers are increasingly turning to automation to simplify tasks and improve their operation’s overall efficiency. In our 2019 State of the Industry Survey, we take a closer look at precision agriculture use on the farm.
We asked growers, how advanced are you now, and how advanced do you envision your farm getting, i.e. do you see robots, artificial intelligence, or other more advanced technology in your farm’s future?
- “I would like to employ robots for mundane tasks and reposition labor for marketing and distribution Ai scares me. People should touch the soil more than once in life so that feel what gives us life.” – Grower from Southwest
- “I can see automation advancements and spraying technology to eliminate a driver spraying chemicals, also mowing.” – Grower from Midwest
- “We use a drone, frost fans with automatic temperature sensors, a hail cannon, etc. I’m 32 and confident during my career there will be a higher prevalence of self-driving tractors and automated harvesters for apples.” – Grower from Midwest
- “We’re pretty advanced in technology, except in harvesting our fresh market crops, which is still done by hand.” – Grower from West
- “We use and will continue to add proven technologies as they make sense. Many don’t make sense. Robots will never harvest apples on an industry-wide basis. Too bad so much effort has gone there instead of other orchard operations with a higher degree of programmability and a lower degree of gentleness required (namely pruning and thinning). Shame on us for getting romanced by robot fruit pickers.” – Grower from Northwest
When we asked growers what type of new technology do you think will commonplace on your farm within the next few years, the overwhelming response was drones and sensors. A grower from the Midwest says he expects to see “new uses and applications for drones (ripeness sensing, crop load estimating, blossom stage indicators, etc.).” Another grower from the Midwest says the benefit to the implement of drones and sensors is the ability to spot issues and scout from the sky. He envisions “SAP analysis in combination with drones that can fly over the field to detect nutrient and disease pressure before you can see it with the human eye.”
We also asked growers what precision ag tools they believe will be commonplace on the farm in 2039, and the general consensus is some form of robotics.
“Almost any equipment that we use will be available in a smart or much smarter version. Sensory data for most critical variables will be easily accessible. Robotics, AI and other advanced technology will be there in ways unimaginable to me,” says a grower from the West.
Another grower from the West says robotics will help solve the critical labor shortage, “Robotics will be replacing most of the labor. Chemical will be applied robotically. Precision application of inputs.”
And, another grower from the West concurs, expecting “Robots for thinning and harvesting Orchard crops. GPS guided chemical applicators. Smart soil monitoring and irrigation. GMO peaches and walnuts.”
Another grower from the West anticipates “New technology will most likely include 1). Autonomous tractors 2) Robotic pruning, thinning and harvesting 3) Remote pest monitoring 4) Solar.”
A grower from the Southwest, though, takes a different view. He envisions two different types of growers, a back-to-the-roots type of farmer and a high-tech farmer.
“Two worlds will exist low tech back to the land basics and AI robotics in climate-controlled conditions,” he says.