Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The future of agriculture?

"Stay tuned on this one folks. I think this industry is about to really take off. When do I think it will happen? Why 2025 of course - when everything else will be changing also." 

Two recent events to take note of. First off, a proposed new trade deal with Mexico. Geared to replace NAFTA. Why replace NAFTA? Seems like many on both sides of the aisle have hated this thing for years. Even Barack Obama, when he was running for President, said he would replace it with something better. Never happened. Anyhow, according to our President, our manufacturers will love this new agreement, and so will our farmers.

I sure hope our farmers like this deal. Many are still smarting from the "trade war" with China. Even though the President has asked the farmers to stay cool, as the long game is being played (and they will be much better off at the end of that game), meanwhile, bills need to be paid. So any uptick in trade with Mexico will certainly help. Meanwhile, if you watch for the deals, you can buy decent pork now in Minnesota at 99 cents a pound.

But believe it or not, agriculture trade deals are only a part of the "short game", The other news story is of even higher interest to me - and it deals with a much larger and longer game. I have written many times as of late on how technology is really taking off in all sectors. But I have not address agriculture.

One of the more tedious jobs in America right now, is picking fruit. Much is done by migrant workers in California. But even for migrant workers, it is tedious and back breaking. 

Fresh on the scene come the robots. These robots have been programmed to recognize which fruits are right for the picking, how to pick them without injuring the fruit, and then how to package them. However, that is just the beginning. Much of agriculture will soon be automated, with the farmer acting more like the orchestra leader, than a worker. From tilling to planting, to irrigating (stand by for new types of totally efficient drip irrigation), to harvesting. It will be a brave new world in how we feed ourselves, as well as the rest of the world.

One final word. Back in the 1980's when I worked for the Control Data Corporation, the CEO at the time decided that besides making computers and storage devices, it would be cool to develop a better way to grow veggies. Like on rooftops. Bigger, better veggies using computers to help with the planning. Well, Wall Street about laughed him right out of business with that one. It went nowhere - or did it?

I see that technology coming back into play as a part of this mix. Why? Right now China is growing food on just about every square inch of available land. They are constantly coming up with innovative ways to grow new food, better and cheaper. I see the rest of the world following. Better, cheaper, more abundant ways to grow the right kinds of food. 

Stay tuned on this one folks. I think this industry is about to really take off. When do I think it will happen? Why 2025 of course - when everything else will be changing also.


  1. U.S. officials are still trying to renegotiate the terms of the existing NAFTA deal, even as their boss tells the world from the Oval Office that the trade agreement is being replaced with an incomplete deal the UC apparently doesn’t understand.
    The best-case scenario would be for the parties in NAFTA to just ignore the UC’s misrepresentation and continue with negotiations, treating the president as background noise.
    That would likely increase the odds of success, but isn’t a shame that everyone has to hope the American president’s ignorance and incoherence doesn’t get in the way of important policy making?

  2. The automated agricultural robots have the ability to mitigate the boom and bust nature of field work, so that it’s possible that instead of a migrant and temporary workforce, we could shift into an industry that relies on more permanent labor of a smaller size workforce, more skilled in managing the equipment.
    Robot technologies may be cost-competitive in a decade or more. Ultimately, it’s likely that some people may have to find different work. These new technologies will be adopted relatively slowly, so the transition won’t be severe. It may have the most impact on the large masses of migrant workers that move through farms at certain times of the season.
    That should make the anti-migrant GOP pleased as the punch they drink.

  3. The.UC can remember Pearl Harbor? Maybe that's where he got his "bone spurs".