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Industry Focus: Drones And Robots In Agriculture

We have modernized and digitized our calendars, mail, shopping, and most everything else. Why not our food systems? Drones and robots are just two of the main modern tools in today’s farmers’ sheds. They allow farmers to more accurately and precisely monitor, treat, and maintain their crops while saving fuel, water, maintenance costs, and pesticides. Of course, none of this comes out of thin air. Many people are involved in the design, construction, sale, and implementation of these tools on the farm, and you could be one of them.

The Need For Technology In Agriculture

As the world population nears 9 billion people, farmland becomes more scarce, and the number of people who need to be fed only grows. This pushes farmers to continually adopt new technologies that help them produce more with fewer resources every day. The use of drones and robots can give farmers a more precise look at their crops and allow for spot treatment of nutrient deficiency or disease. It puts more eyes, albeit digital ones, in the field looking for problems as they arise. These technologies can also be fine-tuned enough to do delicate work such as berry picking and relieve humans of the laborious work of berry harvest.

These technological advances allow farmers to better manage their crops and make the best use of their resources. OnFarm, an American IoT device company, reports its users’ yields rising by an average of 1.75% and energy costs dropping by about 46%. These results were observed after the adoption of one technology alone. As more advanced technologies are developed and producers incorporate them into every aspect of their operations, their abilities to meet the global demands for agricultural products will increase rapidly.

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Careers in Agriculture-Focused Drones and Robots

  • Agricultural Aerial Photographer
    • Drone operator/ photographer for hire who uses various photography techniques to produce images that farmers can utilize in assessing crop health.
  • Drone Pilot
    • Drone Operator for hire.
  • Drone or Robot Designer/ Engineer
    • Conceptualize and create the product that either operators or farmers will utilize to better serve the farm. Determine key features, size, and functionality details that affect the production of the drone or robot.
  • Software Programmer
    • Some drones and robots are equipped with analytical technology that requires software to function. This software must be created and updated to meet the needs of the agricultural producers that use it.
  • Sales/Marketing
    • While most farmers acknowledge the need to do more with less, they are not always sure what technologies would be most helpful in doing so. Sales and marketing personnel help sell the idea of drone technology or robotics to farmers and communicate the need for them on their operations.
  • Service
    • Farmers wear many hats- veterinarians, economists, mechanics, soil scientists, etc. Having a service technician available to assist with installation or troubleshooting for these new technologies can save them time and give them added confidence in using them, knowing someone is available to help when needed.

Education Requirements

For most jobs involving drones or robots for agricultural use, at least a bachelor’s degree is required. If you are interested in the design and construction of these technologies, an engineering degree would be ideal. However, if your interest is in sales or marketing, a communications-based degree may be better suited for the job. Finally, if software development is more your style, computer science would be the degree area you would aim to study in.

Fortunately, most universities offer both engineering and communications degree programs. Both areas are fairly easy to get into from any university. However, for software development, the degree programs are somewhat more difficult to come by. A few universities offering these programs are:

No formal, agricultural education is necessary to create or sell these tools. A base knowledge of the target audience and their operations would be helpful, however, in designing, building, selling, and implanting them.

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Other Relevant Qualifications

Beyond formal education, a few qualities can also benefit candidates for this area of work. Are you

  • Passionate about agriculture?
  • Creative/ Innovative?
  • Environmentally- focused?
  • Personable/ client focused?
  • A hands-on learner?

If you feel these qualities fit you, a career in drone technology or robotics for agricultural use may be perfect for you.

Drones And Agricultural Robots Currently On The Market

A few companies have begun to work on bringing the world of robotics and drones to the field. They each have a unique approach to solving the problems that today’s farmers face as they attempt to yield more food out of the same ground each harvest. Some of the industry leaders include:

Harvesting Robots

  • AgroBot
    • Headquarted in Spain, Agrobot produces high efficiency harvesters and hydropic systems for the modern farmer. Agrobot focuses on team-oriented work environments that utilize collaboration to drive the agriculture industry forward.
  • Festo
    • A nearly 100-year-old, international company, Festo leads automation systems in a variety of sectors including agriculture.

Automated Weed Control

  • Adigo- The Asterix Project
    • Adigo is an interdisciplinary group that tackles innovative projects with a creative and practical approach. The Asterix Project in one project the Adigo team collaborated on in cooperation with the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program to create weed management systems that were precise and effective while protecting crops.

Autonomous Field Navigation

  • Rowbot
    • Rowbot focuses on modernizing corn production from the ground up. The Rowbot team develops teams of robots that examine and service corn crops at all stages of development to maximize crop health and yield.

Field Mapping, Soil Health Monitoring, and Vegetation Management

  • Sense Fly
    • Sense Fly is a subsidiary of the Parrot Group, located in Paris, France. This company aims to utilize drone technologies to simplify data collection, make surveying safer, and make management more efficient.
  • Precision Hawk
    • Precision Hawk focuses on aerial mapping using drones. The software developed by Precision Hawk that is utilized by its drones offers many features and ways to share information gathered with the technology. The company is continually adding features and options to both its hardware and software.

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Opportunities for Newcomers

The fields of robotics and drone technologies for agricultural purposes are fairly new. The opportunities for young minds in the industry are bountiful and ready to be taken advantage of. Overall, few farms have adopted these advanced technologies into their regular management plans. However, as younger generations advance into management of these farms, the adoption of new technologies is expected to increase rapidly.

As a result, the job market and projected job security for professionals in these areas looks bright and holds many opportunities for innovation, creation, and advancement.

Governmental Affairs

While designing and implementing this equipment, it is paramount that industry professionals take into account the regional laws and provisions regarding flight safety regulations and artificial intelligence relating to robotics. Maintaining compliance with these laws may pose design challenges or considerations, but in most cases, are not detrimental to technological advancement.

Expectations

Most farmers expect to see more automation become a part of their operations’ daily routines as they strive to be more efficient and eco-friendly. Drones and robots play a major role in taking a step forward in the world of agriculture by providing resources to farmers that can be utilized to better manage the land they are entrusted with. This fast-growing industry is expected to continue evolving and improving. Tractica predicts by the year 2024, annual revenue in these technologies will reach $74.1 billion as shipments rise from 32,000 in 2016 to 594,000.

As new developments are made, more professionals are needed to support the growing and evolving industry, and one of those could be you. If you have or are seeking a degree in engineering, communications, agriculture, or computer science, the field of agricultural technologies could be the ideal place for you.

If you are interested in this field, you might also like our interviews with startups invested in drone technology: Drone-Enabled Precision Agriculture and Picture Analysis Using Drones. If you want to be informed about new insights and interviews, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Theresa Kern

Theresa Kern

Business Development at beta|careers
Theresa is a management student and team member of the 2017 class at beta|careers.

Her responsibilities include growing and nurturing our platforms and, occasionally, taking care of bus tickets for the team. In her free time, she can be found on horseback out in the woods.
Theresa Kern

Agtech, Drones, Ecosystem Basics