We've written a lot about automation here. The article below summarizes the trend toward automation of the agricultural sector. given the mass unemployment around the world, it seems ridiculous to mechanize and automate agriculture even more, since it's already torn society apart. But the race to produce the most goods with the least amount of labor must continue unabated. The article mentions the possibilty that certain sectors will eschew this, even if it means higher prices. How will the trend play out?
I'll restate my belief that the crisis will come from mass unemployment and the resulting social deterioration before Peak Oil really starts to effect our lives. In addition, a small core of elites will continue to live lives of comfort and leisure, based on the social class they are born into, their access to good early education and insanely pricey and hard-to-get educational credentials, social connections, accidents of geography, and just plain luck. They will increasingly be a class apart, presiding over a society of desperate and radical neo-peasants who are brought to heel by police-state measures that would make Stalin blush (pee in a cup to get your welfare benefits, drones flying overhead, etc.)
Last July, Iowa-based Kinze Manufacturing gathered its dealers to debut a new on-farm toy: a John Deere tractor pulling a grain cart. The scene might have been unremarkable—dealers have seen the cart in action countless times—except that there was no one at the wheel.Automated farm equipment and small-scale farmers (Slate)
The driverless tractor won admirers at NPR, Wired, and the Wall Street Journal. But Midwesterners saw Kinze’s system as a welcome but predictable upgrade in the über-mechanized world of commodity growing. For more than a decade, farmers have enjoyed the advances of precision agriculture. The highest-tech farm vehicles across the country now boast real-time kinematic GPS and auto-steer technology. Farmers are just along for the ride, accompanied by Beyoncé videos.
There’s no doubt that big bots are the future of big ag. The question is whether autonomous technologies will ever penetrate the rest of the market—smaller-scale, diversified, labor-intensive operations popping up across the country.
As of the USDA’s 2007 census of agriculture, the average American grower is 57 years old. For every farmer under 35, there are nearly six who are 65 or older. The agriculture industry is poised for sudden, widespread employee turnover from the last generation to the next. These incoming growers, far more than the outgoing ones, will decide the fate of robotic farming. And from what we know of new farmers, two very different futures are possible...