Ag News

Bye Bye Dull, Dangerous, and Dirty Jobs - Hello AI

  • By: Farm Tender "Prime"
  • Sep 23, 2017

By Sarah Nolet -

Sarah Nolet, CEO of AgThentic, says agriculture is undergoing a digital revolution, and the huge potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will accelerate the pace of disruption and rapidly change how our food gets from paddock to plate but it’s not as scary as you might think.

AI, with applications ranging from image processing algorithms, to cloud biology, to on-farm sensors, could have a positive impact on the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture. As we understand more about the complex natural systems in which our crops grow, and have access to highly practical recommendations from agronomist-trained algorithms, farmers will use fewer chemicals and pesticides. And as we digitize the agricultural supply chain, we will reduce the amount of food we waste, improve our ability to respond quickly to consumer needs, and more toward seed-to-stomach transparency at the swipe of a finger. AI will eliminate inefficiencies, bring convenience to consumers, and helps farmers capture a larger percentage of each dollar we spend.  

Even experts disagree on what AI will mean for the future of work in agriculture. Will technology create jobs and enable a world of abundance, of cause mass unemployment, social inequality, and unrest? Will it take years for AI to master the extreme complexity of soil and weather, or can an injection of capital make it happen quickly?

I believe AI will accelerate these productivity gains, continuing to bring positive impacts to agriculture and agricultural jobs.

For Australian agricultural jobs in particular, understanding the role of AI and its impact on the future of work is critical. The agricultural industry provides over 1.6 million jobs to the Australian economy, and is responsible for around 12% (155 billion) of GDP, according to the National Farmers Federation. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants come to Australia each year, increasingly settling (and working) outside urban areas where they help to make rural and regional economies more productive.

I believe AI will accelerate these productivity gains, continuing to bring positive impacts to agriculture and agricultural jobs.

Bye Bye Dull, Dangerous, and Dirty Jobs
I recently had the opportunity to tour an abattoir, and there’s nothing like an assembly line of blood and knives to make it clear that many of the jobs in agriculture are dull, dirty, and dangerous. Fortunately, machines are much better at these jobs than humans, and can free up humans to do higher value tasks that are not only safer, but also much more enjoyable.

Consider how much more helpful, engaging, and productive a checkout person can be when a machine handles the nitty gritty of the transaction, freeing up the person to focus on customer experience. This is not just theoretical: research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) highlights how companies and workers can both win when they invest in good jobs that leverage the very skills that make us human and complement them with the latest technologies. We can expect companies that invest in both technology and people to reap the same benefits in agriculture.

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