Robert Saik, ag futurist and CEO of AGvisorPRO, says he is building his next company based on the assumption that rural broadband will sweep across the world soon. “Whether it’s Bezos or Musk or Loon, somebody will crack the code and we will have connectivity on the farm to connect everything together, from grain bins to soil moisture probes,” he says.
Saik spoke to landowners at the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines today.
He says algorithm will be the new word in every farmer’s vocabulary. Algorithms will be used in GEO mapping, remote sensing, and virtual reality technology.
Robots are well suited for the three D’s, says Saik – work that is dangerous, dirty, and dull. Agriculture has all three. “We put some of our brightest young people in a glass cage for 12 hours a day and tell them to not touch the steering wheel,” says Saik. “If you put a dog in a glass cage for that long you would be brought up on cruelty charges.”
Cameras under and around sprayers will allow robotics to spray with precision and avoid crushing rows.
The issues around agriculture with respect to labor are critical, he says. “We can’t find good operators in remote areas where we live. Robotics will allow us to drop operating costs and reduce compaction.” It’s not a question of if robotics come, it’s when it comes and who will bring it, he says.
When Saik was growing up on a farm, he says, you often ended up covered in hydraulic oil switching between pieces of equipment. “Today you are covered in digital hydraulic oil, because a lot of these systems don’t talk. We need systems integrators to make this technology work on the farm.”
Saik says his moonshot challenge “is to increase the profitability and sustainability of farmers globally by creating a brand-new connectivity challenge for agriculture.” If you have bugs in your corn, a cow that is sick, a tractor monitor that is frozen, a combine at an auction you can’t attend, a 45-minute-wait on a 1-800 line isn’t going to give you the answer, he says. Sensor devices and recognition software will tell a farmer where he has a problem and what the problem is without another human having to visit the farm.