12 Sep 2023

RED Days Rundown: Autonomy and the Future of Ag

The 2023 LG Seeds RED Days recently wrapped up, and the events pretty much ran themselves.

Okay… maybe they didn’t run themselves, but things that do run themselves dominated the conversation.

RED Days with Your Reliable Partner

Over the past few weeks, your reliable partners at LG Seeds have hosted RED Days events in Iowa, Indiana and Illinois. These “Research and Education Days” allowed farmers, industry partners and our agronomy team to learn more about our one-of-a-kind genetics, see the latest hybrids from LG Seeds and AgReliant Genetics, and learn about innovations within the ag industry.

During these events, one presentation really stood out—an interactive discussion led by Dr. Scott Shearer of Ohio State University.

His topic? Automation in agriculture.

The Future Has Arrived

A few short years ago, conversations about automation in agriculture were similar to those about sci-fi films—sure, it could happen, but how?

Today, automation is becoming the industry standard. As Dr. Shearer pointed out in his presentation, a Bloomberg article from late last year featured Josh Jepson, CFO of Deere & Co., stating U.S. corn and soybean production could be fully autonomous by 2030. Jepson noted it’s technically possible and that Deere was committing to that vision.

That’s only seven years away…

Dr. Shearer also highlighted other companies taking autonomy, and the future of agriculture, to the next level:

AGCO’s Xaver: A cloud-controlled army of small field robots that autonomously plant fields while increasing safety and reducing compaction.

Swarm Farm: The Australian robotic agriculture company that can spray weeds for a fraction of the cost of hiring a human operator and promotes its service with the eye-catching tagline, “My dad used to drive a tractor.”

Greeneye: Precision ag tech that uses AI to identify and spray individual weeds… not just broadcast the entire field. This saves massive amounts of herbicide.

And these are just scratching the surface. Bottom line? The future of agriculture is here, AND it’s just getting started.

Growing Pains: Challenges to Overcome

Technology is constantly improving, but anticipate some kinks along the way. Autonomous agriculture requires a lot of data to make a farmer’s life a little easier. But according to Dr. Shearer, sometimes those “bells and whistles” that make ag tech attractive can also present “back doors” for hackers to enter and do something “nefarious.”

In plain English? Data security is always an issue.

Still, big data companies are likely to have better data security than the lone farmer. As a bonus, Dr. Shearer points out those companies can also “store your data a heck of a lot cheaper than you can.”

It’s not just data security issues. Rain events can cause problems with some autonomous technology, and there’s always the issue of having proper wireless service, especially in rural areas. But as Dr. Shearer noted, the options for good wireless service are expanding and constantly improving.

Of course, the government is sometimes the problem. Swarm Farm wanted to put its vehicles to work in California. So why are they operating in Australia? California law prohibits autonomous vehicles that operate over two miles per hour, which is pretty pretty slow—even for farm standards.

As challenges arise, farmers continue to overcome them, allowing for the technological transformation of agriculture to move forward.

Looking Ahead: Tech Adoption and The Future

Dr. Shearer wrapped up his presentation by discussing what he called the “Ag Tech Hype Curve”—a visual explanation of the innovation, expectations, problems, fixes and eventual productive adoption of agricultural technology. It’s not a straight and easy road, but just as yield monitors and autosteer are now standard practice, on-plant sensors and full autonomy are likely to follow… eventually.

As a farmer, you face your fair share of challenges. Whether you’re working through this harvest season or navigating your options in autonomous technologies, your reliable partner is only a phone call away. From hosting informative RED Days with industry experts to meeting you in the field, LG Seeds is always committed to your success—season after season.