Why is autonomy in ag so hard?

We’ve talked and thought a lot about autonomy this year, and despite what we think are some promising developments, overall, we continue to be struck by just how hard it is to bring solutions to market. From the technology to the use case, from the regulations to data, there are barriers and problems to solve in every direction.

So today we’re covering a ton of ground to understand why bringing autonomous solutions to agriculture is so hard. First, we talk to Connie Bowen of Farmhand Ventures, who is not particularly bullish on the near term viability of full autonomy, and has instead chosen to focus on what she calls “collaborative robotics”. Then we check in with Ray Russell, Principal Hardware Engineer at Locomation on specifically why technical problems stand in the way of progress in the autonomous space. Finally, we check in briefly with Kevin Andrews, Strategic Marketing Manager for Autonomy at Trimble Agriculture to understand how more established equipment players are thinking about tackling autonomy’s biggest challenges. 

In this episode, our guests speak about:

  • Where labor is (and isn’t) a problem in modern agriculture and how understanding the texture of the farm work landscape is critical to determine which markets are (and aren’t) addressable 
  • The many and specific challenges related to autonomous tech, like making tools specialized enough to do a task as well as a human without making them so specialized that they’re not worth the investment
  • What the near and more distant future of autonomy might look like for different ag sectors, and which players, from venture capital to legacy players, will have the right incentives to support possible solutions

‍This episode is brought to you in partnership with Trimble Agriculture, who are building technology to make farming better through precision.

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Key takeaways

  • [3:10] Collaborative robotics and the future of farm work
  • [13:42] The service model in autonomous
  • [29:10] Upstream value-add with autonomous