Farm Workers Being Replaced By AI Tech

An AI-enabled horde of drones and robots could soon be involved in cultivating and processing the produce grown in the United States.

An exemption was given to the Houston-based software company Hylio in February by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly swarms of heavy drones over farmland by a single pilot. Fertilizer and pesticide fields may now be sprayed simultaneously by three battery-powered drones, each weighing up to 400 pounds. Farmhands or crop-dusting planes formerly took care of this.

The FAA ruling made it possible to deploy drone swarms without the need for a team of certified operators, simplifying and reducing the cost of the procedure. A single operator can spray 150 acres per hour using a flock of three drones.

Located in Tulare, in the center of California’s Central Valley, the 2024 World Agriculture Expo showcased a wide array of high-tech agricultural gear, including crop-dusting drones. This year’s Expo had over 1,250 exhibitors and over 100,000 attendees. They watched a robot driven by artificial intelligence pluck berries delicately with a silicone “hand.” Other devices showcased included an automated agricultural sprayer.

The creators of these cutting-edge instruments claimed their creations may alleviate the manpower crisis that has plagued the American agriculture sector for decades. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that the use of hired agricultural laborers fell more than 50% from 1950 to 2000. Even in the 2020s, hiring has remained a problem for farmers.

Some advocacy groups and large-scale farms have created training programs to prepare agricultural workers for new careers as drone operators or programmers.

The United States Department of Labor is also monitoring the situation. According to reports, a department representative has informed the president that next month, he will receive a report outlining suggestions for a relief scheme that might assist agricultural workers who have lost their jobs due to AI.

Congress’s green light is necessary for every new aid package. It may also be incorporated into a subsequent Executive Order, such as one issued in October 2023.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants labor in American fields; it is uncertain if this assistance scheme would help them.