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Automation in farms: the rise and risks involved

When we hear the word ‘automation’, a lot of different things can come to mind: self-driving cars, robot-run factories, and online databases to name a few. However, automation is growing throughout all sorts of industries – particularly in the Canadian agricultural sector, where several key developments are changing the way we think about agribusiness.

For farmers, the introduction of these new technologies can be both exciting and a little intimidating as we usher in a new era of sustainable agriculture. As great as it is to be up to date with the latest farming trends, it’s also important to understand the future risks.

Here’s what you need to know…

Why Automation is on the Rise

Since the dawn of time, there has been a bit of tension in the agriculture business: that is, between the desire to produce more top-quality crops, while also finding the workers needed to maintain that output. As trade policies and the rising global populace affect Canada’s supply chain and the pricing of food products, this tension will only continue to grow.

At the same time, consumer preferences are having a big impact on the industry – with many western countries demanding a bigger focus on organic products and sustainable processes. All of this contributes to a system that requires more time, labour and data than ever before. The problem is, Canadian agriculture is also facing steep labour shortages and rising wages.

For many farms, automation has become the most viable solution, allowing them to bypass many of these issues.

The Benefits We’re Seeing Today

Aside from big machines like self-driving tractors or the more recent DOT seeders, we’ve seen more focus on bringing internet connectivity into our farms. Convenient web-compatible devices are being used to track everything from changes in soil to levels of rainfall, with these interconnected systems allowing farmers to greatly increase efficiency and even safety. An example of this is the NeatMeter, a smart device by Rakr Inc. that reduces electricity costs, environmental footprints and offers insights for dairy farmers; Business Insider has noted that devices like the NeatMeter are expected to increase at a 20% annual compound rate over the next few years.

By providing more accurate data at just a moment’s notice, Canada’s growers can spend less time worrying about the conditions of crops and machines, and more time on the end product.

The Possible Risks of Automation

While new technology will be great for the future of agriculture, there are sure to be some downsides. Most obviously, with an increased reliance on machines comes less need for human labour. Just three years ago, Japanese company Spread announced that its indoor automated farm will be run almost entirely by robots, leaving a single task for humans – and this is only the beginning.

As farms depend more on machines to replace manual tasks, automation will become necessary to keep things running. What if a machine breaks down? Do farmers have risk mitigations for these events? Many, unfortunately, do not.

Another risk of machines is the increased electricity costs and time spent on maintenance. While automation can result in greater speed and quality control, the further costs at this stage may be a turn off for many farm owners.

If your farm is heading towards automation, but those rising expenses have you seeing red, look no further than the Rakr NeatMeter. The NeatMeter gives you the best of both worlds by increasing efficiency while helping to keep costs low. To learn more, click here.

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