What Will Farmers Do When They No Longer Drive Tractors?

Think about how much time is spent driving on a farm. Sitting in a cab operating a truck or tractor is a fundamental part of what farming is today. So what would farmers do if they didn’t have to spend that time driving machines?

As artificial intelligence advances and faster computing speeds enable machine-learning, driving will become an obsolete task, says Nikolas Badminton, a Vancouver-based futurist who focuses on how technology impacts workplaces and business.

“Agriculture jobs are going to change. Driving is one of the jobs that’s going to disappear,” he explains in video below, filmed during TechTour Live last week.

“Those people are going to be repurposed to do different things, likely to more knowledge-based working, analysis, looking at the soil, and making decisions at a higher level of capability,” continues Badminton. “Jobs aren’t going to disappear. Job types are going to disappear.”

But what about all the variability in conditions and weather that farmers deal with in the field? How will self-driving trucks handle snowstorms or muddy back roads? Badminton believes there will still be a human element overseeing autonomous vehicles, but the ability for the machines to learn from ‘experience’ is rapidly improving.

“Now it’s about learning. I think we have the systems in place. The more these vehicles drive, the more they learn from these conditions,” he says. “They’re learning, but that’s why it’s taking a while, because there’s a level trust that needs to be built, and that comes from experience.”

There are also social aspects to consider, which is why Badminton says it’s critical the ag industry ensures it has education programs in place to help people adapt.

“Education is going to be really important,” he notes. “Universities, online course are going to have to address the balance of knowledge… People who have been driving for 30 years, it’s going to be tough for them to retrain. They’re going to need some help, but so as long as there are support systems in place that are both human-based, as well as computer-based, I think we’re going to be okay.”

Stay tuned to RealAgriculture for more from TechTour Live, including interviews with speakers Dan Thurmon and Randy Dowdy.

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor for Real Agriculture based near Altona, Manitoba. Prior to joining Real Ag he spent more than 10 years working in radio. He farms with his father near Rosenfeld, MB and is on Twitter at

@realag_kelvin

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