January 15, 2024


The Agriculture industry has been facing mounting pressures over the past few decades. Operational costs continue to grow, the labor pool continues to shrink, and environmental changes make maximizing crop yield a constant struggle. 

In addition, agriculture also has to adapt to evolving regulations and shifts in demand. These problems make prioritization a necessity. How do farmers address their labor challenges or evolving regulations? By shifting to autonomous machinery that has significant upfront costs, or by finding less skilled workers willing to endure the long, nighttime or early morning shifts? How do agricultural producers handle shifting trends like the reduction in the use of herbicides?    


Farmers have to determine what technology they can use to enable them to make better and faster decisions so they can maximize profits and minimize waste. Many are switching to connected, semi-autonomous and autonomous machines, but this transition can also introduce new challenges. These challenges include significant upfront equipment costs, trust that the equipment won’t damage their crops, fear that machines can injure humans, and connectivity for machines in areas where there is no internet. 

Adopting autonomous machinery can enable farmers to improve crop yields and quality, reduce labor and fuel costs, and minimize risk. To fully realize these benefits, autonomous machines need to require minimal startup time and effort. In addition, they need to provide a high level of control to maximize precision, run time, and crop yield. These machines can reduce inputs by up to 80% in some cases. 

Key factors for farmers when considering a transition to autonomous machines include:

  • Trust in the equipment: to ensure crops won’t be damaged (e.g. real-time video and management systems to monitor, adjust, and stop the machine)
  • Connectivity: to compensate for incomplete or intermittent coverage (e.g. private radio)
  • Familiarity with equipment: so transitioning to electric or autonomous machines has low barriers to entry, minimizes risk, and saves on labor and diesel costs
  • Safety features: to ensure people and assets around machines are safe

We will be discussing some of these factors in the next blog posts.

Alex Foessel


Alex Foessel on SAE Tomorrow Today Podcast

Alex Foessel on SAE Tomorrow Today Podcast

SAE International is the leader in connecting and educating mobility professionals to enable safe, clean, and accessible mobility solutions. SAE is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and...

read more