Farming News - RaboResearch: The future of farming: Agriculture is slowly heading toward autonomous machines

RaboResearch: The future of farming: Agriculture is slowly heading toward autonomous machines

Autonomous machines are a potential game changer in crop farming, boosting productivity, precision, and ease of operations. A recent RaboResearch report sheds light on the journey towards the successful market introduction of these innovations. Despite the transformative potential of autonomous machinery, their adoption is tempered by uncertainty about safety regulations. Companies are tasked with demonstrating the safety of their designs and usage before they can be widely implemented.


Automation in farming is improving both productivity and sustainability

The key to farming productivity lies in technological advancements and digitalization, rather than simply scaling up machine size and horsepower. Automation allows for faster, more precise operations with reduced resource consumption, including water, fertilizers, crop protection, and energy. This shift not only bolsters operational efficiency but also enhances the sustainability of farming practices. Autonomous machines, capable of operating without human operators or on-site supervisors, are set to alleviate the burden of labor shortages and improve working conditions on farms.

“To cultivate significant crop areas, many farmers currently use autosteering system support, but this is only the first step toward autonomous machines. These machines must be capable of stand-alone diagnosis, decision-making, or task performance in changing environments, without a human operator or on-site supervisor,” says Doriana Milenkova, Farm Inputs Analyst for RaboResearch.
Several stages of technological developments must be completed before full autonomy is achieved (if ever).

Robots won’t replace the tractor anytime soon

While the benefits of autonomous machines are substantial for both farmers and society, their widespread adoption will not occur overnight. Farmers require measurable evidence of the advantages these machines offer. "Autonomous machines must outperform their conventional counterparts in tasks such as tilling, sowing, plant treatment, and crop harvesting to justify the investment. Building understanding and market acceptance among potential users will take time," states Milenkova. Incremental advancements of autonomous features for each field task are paving the way for their market acceptance.

Safety regulations are a key precondition for wider commercialization

The path to commercializing autonomous machines is also shaped by the need for comprehensive industry standards and legal frameworks. The regulatory environment is a critical factor that companies must navigate. The agricultural robot market, still in its early stages, is exploring various strategies for market entry. However, traditional distribution channels are not yet equipped to handle the unique challenges posed by these innovative machines.

In a still fragmented agtech market, consolidation and collaboration are expected

The current global agtech landscape is fragmented, with various autonomous machines tailored for specific field tasks. Acquisitions and partnerships offer the industry a way forward and a means to provide more integrated solutions that can be distributed effectively among farmers.

Despite 25 years of development, the agricultural robot industry is still in its infancy. “The number of companies is still growing, and the playing field is very diverse, fragmented, and populated by various types of companies, ranging from startups to major original equipment manufacturers and from specialized to multifunctional,” explained Milenkova. Given the currently crowded and competitive playing field, the industry will inevitably consolidate once the market matures.

Further information