Agriculture is ripe for self-driving
Agriculture is the leading adopter of autonomous driving technology despite the hype around driverless cars, says Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, research director, IDTechEx. “First came tractor guidance, helping drivers drive more accurately and relieving some of the pressure of maintaining driving accuracy,” he writes in Government Europa Quarterly. “Next came autosteer, giving the operator the ability to programme a map into the tractor and let it navigate autonomously.”
The next stage will potentially be unmanned autonomous tractors, and taking the driver out of the equation may have profound consequences for the way we envisage agricultural machinery.
“The well-established notion that bigger is better has its origins in the need to enhance the productivity of the driver but this notion loses some of its relevance if farm vehicles become autonomous and unmanned,” says Ghaffarzadeh.
Navigational autonomy may initiate a major transition from a few large, heavy, fast and expensive vehicles towards fleets of small, light, slow and inexpensive agricultural robots.
“These agrobots would move slowly, giving extra attention to plants thus essentially bringing a gardening-like ultra-precision-farming approach to industrial farming,” he adds.
The agricultural robots market is expected to grow from $2.75bn last year to $12.8bn by 2022, at a CAGR of 20.71% between 2017 and 2022, according to latest forecasts.
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