Autonomous cars are getting all the press, but there is an even more disruptive side to self-driving vehicles that will almost certainly come first – autonomous farming.
Imagine running a farm completely from your study? Sending fleets of tractors and harvesters to work 24-7 without a single human setting foot in the field. They can be timed to plant, harvest, or plow when conditions are optimal. Be monitored remotely by camera and even be driven remotely.
They could be combined with small drones or robots that are able to do fine labor – like weeding without damaging the plants and using a minimal amount of chemicals:
This isn’t just about reducing labor efforts – it’s actually a potentially huge jump in productivity and capital outlay as well. Imagine fields that can be analyzed and automatically planted based on market conditions, soil conditions – all to maximize profit and production.
It could radically reduce costs and environmental impact of chemicals used to feed, weed, and protect by insecticides. Imagine a machine that could drive over a field – targetting weeds and plants and give it exactly the right amount of insecticides, feed, and weed killer on an individual level.
This technology is not science fiction – it’s here in prototypes now. It should become ubiquitous in the next decade or two. Here’s a good overview of what’s coming and already in development