Artvilla Sanele Dakamela- Second runner up - Farmers Idling by Dint of Artificial Intelligence

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 Hollard Insure and and Agri News Net - Young Agri Writers competition 

Technology has brought many a change to the lives of human beings and the world continues to develop based on how efficiently we utilize technology.

In the agricultural context, farmers make use of technology in the form of drones to increase watering efficiency and to detect bugs or other threats in the fields, just like how your smartphone detects your face – facial recognition. In addition, some farmers make use of self-driving tractors to lessen the workload around their farms.

But then what if all our agricultural-related activities, to the fullest extent, were taken care of by artificial intelligence? The first thing that pops up is the notion of idle farmers.  These farmers would have the opportunity to focus on other activities in life without having to worry excessively about their farms. Heirs will no longer have to sell their family farms because of their lack of interest in farming or maybe even because of their demanding jobs. Therefore, physical work, not to mention expertise and experience, will no longer be a barrier to producing good crops.

Just think about it, a simple code could lead to your robot(s) leveling your land and preparing your soil for farming. You either get to sit and watch the beauty of AI at work, or take your family out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – Yes, that’s the beauty of it – Robots can be set to work at any time.

So, what happens next? You receive a notification on your smartphone, informing you that the first process – Soil preparation – has been completed, and the second process – Planting of seeds – will commence shortly. Get a notification when pruning begins, the removal of unwanted weeds, watering of plants and how frequent they should be watered, or when it is time to harvest, I bet all farmers will feel like they’re playing the game Hay Day.  Is it not amazing how fast and efficient the farming process can be made? The removal of humans as a core part of the production process further eliminates both human error and labor costs. You’ll only have to worry about the maintenance of the system, but this of course is sorted out by the insurers.

However, after investing a significant amount of time in a brown study, one realizes some shortfalls when it comes to this idea: Climate change, the energy used to power up robots, theft,  the lifespan of robots, unemployment, and most importantly, the effect the idea of an idle farmer has on the existing labor force within agriculture.

Robots will require an immense amount of energy to be powered up as they will work very frequently, and for this reason, the South African carbon reduction targets and efforts to tackle climate change will be threatened, and because of the excessive crime in South Africa, or when the robots, in any circumstance, get destroyed, the farmer will be forced to unavoidably spend large sums of money in replacing or repairing their robots, which will result in profit losses for agricultural businesses. According to research, automation also leads to unemployment. But this can be set off by the specialized jobs created to make and maintain these robots.

One also wonders about the possibility of integrating green energy into the process. This means that we would effectively be operating on a net negative carbon emission.

Automation in agriculture is, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant ideas in the world of agriculture. It will strengthen the economy in cases of international trade, and it will also give farmers the ability to engage in economy stimulating activities other than those related to the agricultural sector. If the abovementioned shortfalls are brought under control, every individual, regardless of their agricultural knowledge, will have the opportunity to become a farmer.

Artvilla Sanele Dakamela, 22. An Accounting student at the University of the Free State with an interest in agriculture because of its high effectiveness in reducing poverty. 


Artvilla Sanele Dakamela, aged 22, is an Accounting student at the University of the Free State(UFS). He resides in kwandengezi, Durban KwaZulu-Natal, and is an enthusiastic reader and writer.