In case you’ve fallen behind in your farm machinery reading, a recent video from Farm Equipment Magazine is worth giving some special attention. The video below gives a preview of a new product called the Kinze Autonomy Project, a new set of tractor and grain cart unveiled this Summer that drive themselves to harvest crops and that can make “intelligent operational decisions in real time based on field conditions.”
Designed to reduce the need for skilled labor operating the machinery, the system would mean that farmers could do other higher-level planning work and operate the tractor all night long by itself. Presumably the whole thing is networked, collects data and will make some analytics available. Hello, Internet of Things, goodbye Old MacDonald? I’m not sure what to think of this – but large scale agriculture has probably been far enough from a city dweller’s idyllic vision of farming to be creepy for a long time anyway. There’s something about this video that feels especially creepy to me though.
In case you can’t see it at this size, that is a John Deere in the video.
Of course all technology is about saving time and work so that greater, higher forms of work can be done. It’s a beautiful thing, in many contexts. That which can be automated, networked and measured at scale can be performed more rationally, more efficiently and in standardized ways that offer a foundation for further inovations.
It’s not as if farm labor done by underpaid seasonal migrants living in cramped conditions after fleeing Latin American economies crushed by CIA installed military dictators and death squads from the 50’s through the 80’s is necessarily anything to romanticize either.
Perhaps we should welcome our new, fully autonomous food production overlords.