The Saf Agr’Idées and the Agricultural Data Coalition raise the topic of robotics and big data in farming. It allows farmer to improve their productivity by receiving a lot of detailed information about their crops or cattle, which will then allow them to make precise decisions, adapted to particular situations. For example, milk producers collect data on their cows everytime they are milked by the robot. So they know precisely the health state of each cow at any moment, which allow them to treat their cows more efficiently. However, robots and softwares used in such futuristic farms are sold by big companies on which the farmers depend for tech support or data storage for instance. Doesn’t that pose a problem in terms of independence for farmers who can get “trapped”, compelled to keep relying on the same company ?
I find all your comments really interesting ! However, I thing it is important to the roots.
Agriculture comes from the latin words art and fields. This definition of agriculture involves artisans in other words farmers. The growing use of technology is undoubtedly separating the artisans from the nature, making them more and more dependent from the technology, banks and also multinational compagnies. Thus, is the term of “robotic agriculture” not an oxymoron, a meaningless concept? Is this concept still relevant to describe the intensive harvesting achieved by the growing use of technologies?
On the larger scale, does the innovation and automatisation of farming does not imply the decay of independent agriculture? As the investments in order to get a “smart farm” may be really important and the competition in agriculture world would intensify, it may threaten smaller farms and their business model. The relation between farms and agronomic and agrotech companies would evolve with farms relying heavily on big firms, or having exclusivity contracts with them as it is sometimes the case in Europe and more often in the US.
Furthermore, traditional agriculture would also certainly stop from being viable anymore, especially in developing countries where access to credit and capital for poor farming households can make the shift impossible, on top of a real culture barrier erected by the strong values of farming communities. Is the use of robotics and datas calling for the end of small farming?