For centuries, the majority of the world’s farms have operated using a mix of science, experimentation and generational knowledge. From preparing the ground and planting the crop to spraying, weeding and harvesting the finished product, growers often farm in the same way they learned from their predecessors. They continue to do things the way they’ve always done them, making tweaks as necessary before passing these methods onto the next generation.
That’s not to say that the technology or equipment has remained stagnate, but simply that these exciting developments are largely integrated into age-old systems. Many growers are committed to maintaining some level of business as usual, even as they add things like irrigation controls, weeding robots and remote connectivity systems into their workflows.
As the ag robotics market continues to advance, however, farming systems are destined to change as family farming, still preponderant at a global scale, is challenged. Complicating factors, such as labor shortages, rising production costs and an ever-increasing need to produce more food, have also prompted many operations to reconsider their approach to advancing technologies. As the industry begins to innovate at a quicker pace, this begs an important question: How will automation impact the world’s farming systems in the future?
This is precisely the question that will be addressed at the FIRA 2021 roundtable discussion, “Automation and the new ways of organizing agricultural work worldwide.” Pierre Compere, business development manager for Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation, an innovation hub committed to growing ecology-smart agri food chains, will serve as the moderator. He sees this discussion as an important one for the industry’s growth.
“When World FIRA organizers shared with me their first ideas on the program, I thought the opening conference would offer a great opportunity to get an outlook on the evolving ways of organizing agricultural work and labor worldwide,” Compere says. “As robotics get more mature from a technological point of view, it is interesting to question the operational integration of the equipment and try to understand the insights and dynamics of ag robotics markets.”
In this panel discussion, experts from the United States, Asia, New Zealand and South America will share their knowledge and experiences on how farming systems in these parts of the world stand to change in conjunction with robotic advancements. In France, for example, the transition from relatively small family farms to bigger farms that for some of them delegate work to service providers has already begun. This change, in turn, will have an impact on the robotics market in France. Similar shifts are happening elsewhere, too. Those who attend the panel discussion will gain an insider’s perspective on how agriculture systems are organized around the globe and how that organization is likely to change in unique ways over time.
“We’ll talk about plot and farm sizes, family farms vs. agri-firms, labor delegation services, investment capacity and more,” Compere says. “In a nutshell, the discussion will be about who is and will operate ag robots, as we are not sure that everyone shares the same definition for ‘farmer.’ Some experts are imaging farming systems without farmers or at least not the same farmers we’ve known.”
In addition to sharing their visions of robotics and autonomous systems, the panelists will provide perspective on how automation should be adapted, developed and utilized in their regions of expertise. There are new ways of working on the horizon. This roundtable is positioned to help attendees understand how these technologies will impact each distinctive farming system and setup, as well as the industry a whole.
“I think it's very important for manufacturers and robotics players to understand the structure of the market, the structure of planning and the organization of labor in farm work,” Compere says. “Robots are supposed to respond to the challenges that farmers are facing in regard to labor, worker creation and business organization. These robotics manufacturers and their partners need to understand how the industry and farming systems are evolving in order to put robotics onto the market that respond to these challenges.”
Those interested in attending “Automation and the new ways of organizing agricultural work worldwide” should mark their calendars for Tuesday, December 7, 2021, from 9-10:15 am. This opening-day roundtable discussion will be a part of the World FIRA 2021 event that runs from December 7-9, 2021. Learn more about the World FIRA 2021 by visiting www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira.