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27 September 2021, 16:00 GMT+2 - - Do the robots dream of farmers? Future perspective of the algorithmization and automation of farming practices

© Copyright Davide Rizzo, 2021 CC BY 4.0
Are the possibilities of agricultural automation today part of yesterday's science fiction?

Davide Rizzo                                                                              →Watch recording of this seminar here

Chair of Agromechanisation and New Technologies, Institut Polytechnique UniLaSalle, Beauvais, France

What will agriculture or the farmers’ job be like in a century? Peeking into the future is a periodical human exercise, especially during crisis times like the pandemic we are still experiencing. Future forecasting can be pursued by exaggerating present trends, so as to explore (and warn about) what might happen if present tendencies continue. We already live in a world where robots can mine 24h a day, where knowing how to operate an iPhone is probably enough to manage a robotic dairy farm, and where farmers sell their products via Douyin live streams for millions of yuan in a few minutes. So, what’s next? A major trend across all of these facts is data scouting. On the one hand, data collection is being intensified thanks to the wealth of embedded sensors on every type of recent equipment, but also by the dramatic resolution improvement of airborne sensors and the steady development of the internet of things, which are designing new cyber-physic frontiers ready for edge computing. On the other hand, data is being used for training machine learning algorithms, eventually being capable to characterize and reproduce practices that were once in the only realm of physical practical experience of farmers. Altogether, data are expected to ease decision-making about farming operations… at a point that it is easy to prospect to use them directly to pilot autonomous equipment, either unmanned or still sporting a cabin to carry a human operator. But how will this automation innovate? Will these data-driven automata be able to make mistakes to learn, as humans do? Or, to rephrase the well-known Philip Dick’s novel, will automatic data-driven agriculture still dream of farmers, in a future where they might become rare? The talk will guide the audience through the journey towards algorithm-wise agriculture already in action with agricultural robots and sophisticated decision support systems.

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