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Could AI Rescue Agriculture After Brexit?

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Guides

Could AI Rescue Agriculture After Brexit?

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Farming is a staple part of British culture. British meat and produce are vital, and are about to become more so once our trade deals with other EU countries come into question.

Yet, despite this need for more produce at home, the agricultural industry is at as much risk as any from the Brexit fallout.

Most of us already know about the significant losses many farmers face due to potentially limited distribution. Sadly, that isn’t the only upcoming risk.

In reality, there is also a potential for labour shortages, and problems within this area have already started.

While most of us have been looking at potential issues, our farmers have been dealing with the already problematic fact that seasonal workers coming to work on British farms have dropped 17%, leaving more than 1,500 vacancies unfilled.

This is because many of those seasonal workers are EU migrants. As such, this issue is only set to get worse if a no-deal Brexit does go ahead. This, despite government efforts to allow farmers to hire 2500 seasonal migrant workers. The work may be there, but people aren’t willing to risk it.

In short; our farms look set to be in big trouble as they enter the harvest period this September. And, as with many industries, our hopes of working around this issue lie primarily with technology.

How can AI help our harvests?

Harvest technology is nothing new. In fact, efforts here have been ongoing for a fair amount of years. Already, heavy machinery like a combine harvester and an effective bale accumulator are staples for the majority of farmers.

Crops such as potatoes and wheat have been harvested mechanically for a fair few decades.

Still, current requirements mean that a fair amount of seasonal staff are vital for ensuring a successful harvest, as some crops have resisted AI until now. And, that's something which farmers drastically need to change by the time a Brexit deal is decided on.

Luckily, help may well be on the cards, and it comes in the form of something called the Vegebot. Developed by engineers at the University of Cambridge, this vegetable picking robot has a computer vision system and a cutting system to allow adjustable crop harvesting. And, it isn't the only technology on the farming cards.

Other advancements include 3D imaging systems for monitoring cow herds and iFarm projects which allow the year-round growing of crops in automated greenhouses.

Admittedly, we have a long way to go until these technologies are as fast or efficient as the seasonal workers' farmers have relied on until now. The Vegebot, in particular, is vital for farmers to address upcoming shortages, yet it's only been tested on iceberg lettuce to this point.

Either way; technology needs to rise to farming problems if we're to continue enjoying the agricultural benefits we've always taken for granted. We'll just have to leave it to our government to work out how farmers can afford machines like these with the upcoming estimated £38,000 profitability drop.

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Could AI Rescue Agriculture After Brexit?

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