Farming is a tough business. Global food demand is surging, with as many as 10 billion mouths to feed by 2050. At the same time, environmental challenges and labor limitations have made the future uncertain for agricultural managers. A new company called Future Acres proposed to enable farmers to do more with less through the power of robots. The company, helmed by CEO Suma Reddy, who previously served as COO and co-founder at Farmself and has held multiple roles and lead companies focused on the agtech space, has created an autonomous, electric agricultural robotic harvest companion named Carry to help farmers gather hand-picked crops faster and with less physical demand. Automation has been playing an increasingly large role in agriculture, and agricultural robots are widely expected to play a critical role in food production going forward.
Farmers have long struggled with operational optimization and labor concerns. Finding enough labor to get the job done, as well as keeping workers safe is a constant struggle. "There is an immediate need to improve efficiency and reduce costs, especially now that the pandemic has exposed just how fragile the supply chain is," said Suma Reddy, CEO of Future Acres, an agricultural robotics and artificial intelligence company. "We saw shortages in both production and more workers being put at risk when picking specialty crops on a daily basis that have really caused the industry to take a step back and re-examine how we can create greater resiliency in the food chain." One idea is to equip farms with a combination of AI and robotics that can "think through" as well as do some of the physical work of farming.
The agriculture industry has hit a turning point. Faced with a massive labor crunch and environmental instability, aggressive technology deployments are no longer an option for outliers in the sector, but a necessary and critical element in the success of the farm. Enabling the transformation are a host of new developers, but also legacy companies with deep roots in agriculture. Smart technology from companies like John Deere, for example, is helping farmers to produce more with less and create more successful crops, all while having a smaller impact on the land and environment. In contrast to prevailing wisdom that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, John Deere is employing AI and machine learning in its equipment to identify and enable needed actions at a scope and speed beyond human capacity, automating farming actions through smart robotics to enable consistent and precise actions at large scale, and providing precise, geospatial intelligence generated with machine technology and coupled with cloud-stored data to enable sustainable farming.
In recent years, technology in agriculture, also known as AgTech has rapidly changed the industry. In 2015, the industry's investment in technology reached a whopping $4.6 billion--and that was three years ago! However, our population is continuing to grow, which has the potential to affect resource availability going forward. In recent studies, it was found that the industry's output must increase by 60% by 2030. People in the industry--farmers, food producers--must embrace the digital transformation trends in agriculture.
From cultivation to improving harvesting quality, AI is known as one of the main elements for a surplus yield but that too for the ones who are capable enough to make use of it. Agriculture is seeing rapid adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, both in terms of agricultural products and in field farming techniques. Apart from that, most of the countries are looking forward to involving such techniques. In 2016, the estimated value added by the agricultural industry was estimated at just under 1% of the US GDP. The US Environmental Protection Agency, estimates that agriculture contributes roughly $330 billion in annual revenue to the economy, thus such techniques would definitely speed things up.