The Future for Ag Technology

The Future for Ag Technology

Over lunch at a recent meeting held by Southern States Cooperative, several of the attendees began talking about the future of agriculture. Naturally, part of this conversation centered on automation. In particular, participants mentioned such recent innovations as the autonomous tractor that Case IH exhibited at many of the ag industry trade shows back in 2016.


Inevitably, I was asked by many at the lunch table: “How long do you think it will be before this kind of technology shows up in custom application?”

Thinking about it, I said that I thought it could happen quite soon, given how quickly technology such as automatic steering had gained market penetration. However, another speaker at the table countered this view, pointing out that many new ag technologies have been introduced over the past dozen years or so and that only automatic steering had become widespread.

“This industry is much slower to adopt new technologies than others, with the exception of automatic steering,” said this individual. “So I don’t see autonomous sprayers appearing anytime soon.”

How long do you think it will be before autonomous sprayers appear?

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And I have to agree. Firstly, autonomous equipment technology in agriculture will start out in tractors and combines. Kinks and issues will be worked out in these sectors over the course of a few growing seasons. Assuming things move at a normal pace, autonomous vehicles will become more commonplace by the mid-2020s.

Then this technology will probably move into other more specialized equipment areas for ag retailers such as front-end loaders and forklifts. This will take place by the end of 2020s.

Finally, once these equipment sectors have perfected autonomous operations, the ag industry might begin seeing the first autonomous sprayers appear, probably during the early 2030s.

“Sounds reasonable,” agreed my lunch table mates. “I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.”

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