Is the future of agriculture full of robots a nightmare or a utopia?


Imagine it: huge, Under the dark sky exuding pollution, autonomous robots powered by gas leveled several acres of homogeneous farmland. The trees have been cut down and no animals can be seen. Pesticides are oversprayed because humans no longer tend to the fields. Machines do their job-producing large amounts of food to feed our growing population-but it is not without ecological costs.

Or, imagine another future: smaller robots grow mosaic plots of many different crops and work around trees, streams, and wildlife in natural landscapes. They are powered by renewable energy sources, such as the sun, wind or water. Agrochemicals are a thing of the past, because robots help the ecosystem to maintain harmony and pests and super weeds are contained. This is a futuristic Eden with blue sky, green pastures and fresh air.

Which world do you want your food to come from?

These are two futures envisioned by Thomas Daum, an agricultural economist at Hohenheim University, who is committed to food security and sustainable agriculture in places such as Uganda and Bangladesh. In July, he published an article Thought fragment exist Ecology and evolutionary trends A dual vision of ecological utopia or dystopia was proposed to discuss how the agricultural technological revolution (also known as agriculture 4.0) can shape our future.

Courtesy of Natalis Lorenz
Courtesy of Natalis Lorenz

“Today’s agriculture must change,” Daum said, worried that the destructive effects of agricultural technology on the environment have not been given enough attention.Climate Change Mitigation Strategy As outlined in the Paris Agreement If we don’t change the way we grow food, we can’t be satisfied. “Even if you change all other sectors,” he said, “if you don’t change agriculture, we will still miss these goals.”

Even in a world without large-scale farm robots, large-scale agricultural practices are already changing the environment. “Agriculture is essentially a deliberate shaping of the ecology of a particular place,” said Emily Reisman, a human environmental geographer at the University of Buffalo. We remove wild animals, destroy the soil, clear the land to better grow food, and spray chemicals to resist pests and diseases.

When we add existing farm technology to the mix, the situation gets worse. Machines such as tractors, harvesters, and crop monitoring drones usually require a controlled environment to operate effectively, so unpredictable factors must be eliminated as much as possible in industrial agriculture. This may mean a single crop on perfectly flat land year after year, with little growth changes, everything matures at the same time, and frequent use of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides to ensure uniformity. Patrick Baur, an agricultural ecologist at the University of Rhode Island, said that standardization is the result of our need to mechanize agriculture. “This is how agriculture and agroecosystems and the entire planting process are shaped to meet the needs of machines,” he said.

The environmental consistency required by industrial agriculture has largely led to the loss of biodiversity and the diversity of plants and animals necessary to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. Biodiversity protects water quality, regulates global temperature by capturing carbon in the soil (rather than in the air), and ensures that there are insects that pollinate crops, and that there are natural enemies to reduce the presence of pests. “The machine greatly reduces the diversity of insect life, microbial life, and flora and fauna,” Bauer said, because most of them need to be removed so that they can operate in the best way.

But why do we need A machine that produces food? This is an economic problem. In order to meet the growing needs of the growing population, agriculture needs more and more labor. Food is also much cheaper than in the past, forcing farmers to produce higher yields with lower profits. Therefore, if fieldworkers make less money and leave the industry to find better-paid options, farmers may increasingly turn to mechanization to fill the gaps.


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