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5 June, 2017 - 16:44 By Kate Sweeney

Agricultural robots to become $12 billion market by 2027

Agriculture robots IDTechEx

Agriculture is regarded as one of the world’s least digitised major industries. But this is all about to change according to Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, research director at Cambridge-based market analyst IDTechEx.

He says data acquisition and analytics companies are already a hot topic and subject to growing capital investments. Agricultural robots can also be seen as a part of this picture: they are data acquisition tools at heart.
Today, many agricultural robotic companies are graduating into the market and are in the process of transforming the value chain of agriculture, Dr Ghaffarzadeh says in a new IDTechEx report on ‘Agricultural Robots and Drones 2017-2027: Technologies, Markets, Players.’

He said: “Contrary to common perceptions, agricultural is in some areas at the forefront of technology adoption. Take autonomous driving as an example.

“GPS-enabled autonomous tractors have been in use for years in farming. Our report predicts that the number of GPS-enabled assets in farming will rise to nearly one million by 2024.

“To set this in context, this figure was only 107k in 2006 and was nearly 430k in 2016 (this includes autosteer, tractor guidance, VRT equipment).
“When we take the long-view, we can see that agricultural machinery has dramatically evolved over the past century. The time is now ripe for further automation as the cost of sensing and data processing has fallen in recent decades. IDTechEx forecasts that agricultural robots will become a $12 billion industry by 2027.

“Despite the strong progress on the machinery side, data and analytics still play a minimal role in traditional agriculture. Of course, data has been extensively used in R & D particularly when it comes to advanced seed and agrochemical production. Nonetheless, it is yet to propagate at scale into farming itself.

“This is on the cusp of change and agricultural robots and drones will help drive this transformation. Sensor-equipped agricultural robots will autonomously navigate through farms, continuously building up a detailed spatial map of data about specific plants.

“To enable this, agricultural machinery may have to undergo a fundamental transfiguration: large, fast, and heavy manned machine may have to be replaced with small, slow and light autonomous robots.

“We are at the beginning of the beginning of this change. Indeed, there are numerous early-stage companies/projects or research groups who are developing such robots.

Khasha Ghaffarzadeh
Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh

“Surprisingly, many are already in commercial mode having sold hundreds of such agricultural robots. In parallel to agricultural robotics, wireless sensing networks are also finding a receptive market in agriculture. 

“The two technologies are complementary. In general, agricultural robotics can help increase the resolution of the data, elevating the precision levels from a specific farm patch towards specific plants. 

“Furthermore, robots intrinsically extend beyond just data acquisition tools in that they can also carry out precision agriculture through site or plant-specific actions such as precision seed-planting, spraying, weeding, nutrient feeding, and so on.”

The full report can be found on the IDTechEx website

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