Horses, hoes, and Agribots, oh my! (4)

Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 6.33.37 PM.pngThe history of technology in agriculture in America is not a new idea. Since the 18th century, American farmers have been utilizing various tools aside from bare hands. Such tools included the usage of oxen and horses for power, hoes used for cultivating the land, and flails for thresholding. Though these pieces of equipment and usage of animals advanced farm work in comparison to solely hand work, there were still limitations. As early as 1790, Eli Whitney famously invented the cotton gin. Because of the cotton gin, work that took several slaves to finish in on day took a mere hour(Meltzer 2004). Proceeding this, in 1819 Jethro Wood patented the iron plow that consisted of interchangeable parts. Wood’s invention accelerated the development of American agriculture in the antebellum period(Tucker 2013). More involved machinery came along in 1892 when John Frolich invented the first gasoline tractor. It was not until 1905 when the first company opened that focused exclusively on the manufacturing of tractors. The first company to do this was titled Holt Manufacturing, which is now known as Caterpillar Tractor Company. Many years preceding this agricultural machinery revolution, the farming world was introduced to precision farming. In precision farming, innovators sought to utilize data gathered from a satellite. The data precision farming provides allows for decisions to made made on precise measurements of crop yield, terrain features/topography, organic matter content, moisture levels, nitrogen levels, and other chemical compositions. Based on these readings, the expected result is to yield higher profit with less environmental impact. The history of technological advancements in agriculture indicate that a move forward with modern technology, such as agribots, will certain be in line with the demands of agriculture.

The subject of automating manual labor introduces multiple perspectives. The two oxymoronic perspectives that bubble above the rest are the states of job loss and job creation. Automating such a position brings to question the elimination of all low-skill positions, which is at the heart of the ethical dilemma and a scare to current farm workers, economists and politicians. There exists an other side to this fear; the side of job creation. Capitalizing on sophisticated 21st century technology in agriculture also opens a new line of specialized positions. Specialized programmers and robotic engineers will be needed to design, create, and maintain these lines of robots. A relieving perspective of any possible worry due to job loss is that is leaves us with a larger pool of potential investment money that can be used to fund new companies. If the robots are truly profit enhancing and yield higher quality of fresh produce as they are marketed to be, the amount of benefits that can come from their creation and implementation are revolutionary. Other perspectives include the lower cost of food due to the abundant production.  All of these perspectives need to be addressed before any person’s manual labor becomes automated.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntamny/2015/03/01/why-robots-will-be-the-biggest-job-creators-in-history/#63d9df0d1749

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