The United Nations predicts that, by 2050, the world’s population will grow to 9.5 billion. Feeding this many people will require the global agricultural production to increase by 69%. Meeting this need will require a significant boost in agricultural productivity. Autonomous technologies will be key to achieving this boost.
Automation has increased efficiency in a range of industries, from manufacturing to software development to retail. In agriculture, there is a growing demand for crop monitoring technologies and advanced farming vehicles. One of the key technologies being embraced is tractor automation.
Read on to discover three key ways the autonomous tractor can enhance agricultural productivity.
Defining Agricultural Productivity
Agricultural productivity is measured as the amount of outputs generated minus the totality of inputs required. Inputs are the myriad costs and overheads that all farmers shoulder.
There are two types of input: consumable and capital input. Consumable inputs range from labor, high-quality seeds, soil, fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides to insect traps, straw, hay, and water. Capital inputs are agricultural inputs that are usually mechanical and technologically advanced in nature. A good example of capital input is any machinery that lives on-site and is central to the farm’s daily operations.
Outputs are crops, livestock, or other generated core materials. Agricultural output consists of the following components: output sold, which includes trading across agricultural holdings; stock fluctuations; production for own final consumption; the output produced for further processing by agricultural producers, and intra-unit consumption of livestock feed products.
Total Factor Productivity is one of the main metrics of agricultural productivity. It compares the overall amount of crops and livestock output to the entire amount of inputs (land, labor, capital, and material resources) used in agricultural production.
By using advanced farming systems like autonomous tractors, overall TFP can be drastically boosted. Outputs can be increased, with either a minimal or net-negative increase in inputs.
3 Ways the Autonomous Tractor Enhances Farm Productivity
Tractor Automation Addresses The National Labor Shortage
Farm labor is a primary agricultural input that is indispensable for a farm’s production. However, American farms are struggling to find sufficient manpower for their farms due to increasing labor costs. In California, where agriculture is a major industry, minimum wages are set to increase to $15/hour by 2022. Moreover, the demand for expert professionals is very high, due to agriculture’s aging workforce.
Fortunately, automation gives farms another way to address manpower costs, by breaking the one man, one tractor paradigm. Inputs are cut and farm productivity is boosted, as a single operator can manage an entire fleet of self-driving tractors. Farmers can execute their work without the demand for a large number of operators, and without adding cost.
Farms Won’t Need To Solely Rely On Human Labor
Farming has always been heavily dependent on human labor, and labor is the central agricultural input in most farm productivity equations. Traditionally, farms with expansive areas and large fleets of tractors have had to hire more farmworkers to operate at a productive level. However, as labor costs continue to trend upwards, there is more and more of a squeeze, especially for smaller, family-owned farms.
However, in the modern era, the input of human labor is no longer a non-negotiable. With automation, a farm’s total area doesn’t need to correlate linearly to people hired. A single operator can monitor and maintain x acres of land, without adding inputs. Agricultural productivity can climb without costs climbing in parallel.
Tractor Automation Lowers Field Costs
According to the USDA, net farm income is forecast to decrease by 8.1 percent in 2021. One of the contributing factors to this decline is higher production expenses, which are predicted to increase by 2.5%, to $353.7 billion, by 2022. Most of this decline reflects higher spending on consumable agricultural inputs like feed, fertilizer, and labor. These growing production costs will force farmers to raise the prices of their harvest and will affect the food market, causing higher input costs and lower outputs.
To counter this problem, the use of sophisticated capital agricultural inputs such as automated tractors is key. An easy-to-use digital interface combined with remote control capabilities results in lower costs per field, higher job quality, and much lower insurance premiums. Autonomous tractors are also much more efficient than traditional tractors. They can run 24/7 with minimal supervision and can work faster. By increasing operating efficiency, agricultural productivity is boosted, and field costs are optimized.
Tractor Automation: A Boost in Agricultural Productivity
In 2020, 420 AgTech startups raised $5.15B in venture capital. This represents a 35% increase in venture funding from 2019. Why? Because farming is of critical importance, and farmers need ways to boost productivity. They need more ways to boost outputs without simply adding inputs.
Learn more about Bearflag Robotics’ autonomous tractors and boost your farm productivity today.