Drones set to take centre stage in ag

About 80 per cent of projected sales of drones in the United States in the next 10 years will be in agriculture, according to Melbourne futurist Paul Higgins citing a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report.

Mr Higgins, a former dairy veterinarian, farmer and agribusiness consultant, is founding director of a consultancy Emergent Future which advises on strategy for clients dealing with disruptive technologies.

Speaking at a Marcus Oldham Centre for the Study of Agribusiness lunch in Melbourne on May 10, Mr Higgins said the report also predicted there would be 100,000 new jobs created in agriculture associated with drone technology. The report  forecast this would drive $US82 billion in economic activity between now and 2025.

Mr Higgins believed farmers in Australia were more likely to rent drones to do the required work from a nearby drone airport rather than own them. This way they would use them more as a service.

“If you walk away with one thing from today don’t let technology lead your strategy. Make sure the technology enables the creation of more value and more margins from that asset,” he said.

According to the Merrill Lynch report robots are beginning to transform farming in the US, from autonomous mowing and ploughing to precision agriculture, a data-based approach to planting and harvesting crops.

Overall, it said, the agricultural robot market was expected to grow to $US16.3 billion by 2020 from $US817 million in 2013 and drones would make up a large segment.

The report indicates that robots in the next 10 years could become the main workhorses powering farms, instead of people.

“People in the US and European Union no longer want to work on farms due to factors such as low farm incomes, its lack of reliability and seasonal nature, and its demanding and risky nature,” the report said.

“Today, less than one percent of the US population claims farming as an occupation with the average number of farm workers having declined from 3.4 million last century to 1 million today.”

– JOHN CARSON

Paul Higgins

Paul Higgins

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