How could technology innovation impact the future of farm and ag labor? That was the focus on a workshop hosted recently by Washington State University at the Tri-Cities campus.
The workshop, “Labor and Automation Effects on Social Sustainability and Resilience in U.S. Agriculture,” was a split between presentations in a classroom setting and a field day. The program featured speakers from all around the world discussing technical innovations in agriculture, the economic impacts of new tech, and the social implications of innovation.
WSU Economic Sciences Professor Jill McCluskey.
“There's been a shortage of labor and it's only gotten worse. At the same time, we have a lot of researchers who are working on new ways to automate this. A lot of the agricultural labor work can be dangerous and can be menial and just hard. For the long term, for at least some of it, it's more sustainable to have some automation introduced into the system.”
During the workshop, WSU shared innovations in specialty crop harvesting technologies, and presented innovations in dairy technologies. Meat and dairy producers, according to WSU, have already looked into what technology routes could fill their labor shortages.
McCluskey noted that all perspectives are vital in this ongoing discussion.
“This will be a successful event if we can have different perspectives represented and discussed and we can better understand the issues in both scientific and engineering breakthroughs that are going on with the researchers at universities and the Tree Fruit Research Commission. Also, to understand the worker side and some of the important challenges and issues that are going on there, to understand from the industry side, from the producer side, to understand what their challenges are and what they need.”
The program featured other speakers from the University of California-Berkeley, Penn State University and Montana State University.