Are Robots Taking Over Ag Jobs?
Will ag tech outgrow the need for human labor? CEO of másLabor Edward Silva doesn’t believe so. While growing certain crops will inevitably automate, Silva says some jobs just can’t be replaced by a machine.
Silva... "You know, there's a whole host of startup companies out there building pretty fantastic, you know, automation around, you know, there's a couple of harvesting machines for apple growers. They're just fantastic. These kinds of vacuum-type tools, there's strawberry pickers, but my sort of thesis on this is, you know, there's 30 different jobs to be done on that operation. It's probably five of those jobs, you look at them and like, oh yeah, you definitely could get a machine to do exactly what that person's doing. And they've already invested in some machines to make it easier for that work to do. But there's another 20 jobs that worker has to do that, you know, no one's going to build a robotics to go do that thing. There's just not enough market there or need or interest. And it's pretty technical, so you kind of need a human to make some general assessment. And so, this farm in particular, you know, they might go automate 10 of those jobs of those 30 and maybe they reduced the numbers a little bit, but they need those workers; they want those workers, so they're going to shift them elsewhere in the operation to help in other things. And so, yes, you know, long term, and this certainly has happened. Crops get automated. Think about carrots and processing tomatoes. I think about almonds, for example, what I grew up in, but I think there are, there are other crops and a host of other activities in agriculture that are still going to necessitate a whole host of manual labor, not just for the next couple of years, but I'm talking decades out."
Silva says cost and need will be the main obstacles halting ag tech from taking jobs.