Robotics is being used in an increasing number of applications in the agricultural space. As such, advances in technology are driving growth in the global agricultural robot market.
Additionally, the growing global population and the increasingly urgent need to address practices that contribute to climate change are forcing the agricultural industry to find innovative solutions to produce higher volumes of food in an environmentally friendly way. This has led to the rapidly growing agricultural robot market.
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Application Areas of Agricultural Robots
Often, the purpose of implementing agricultural robots is to increase crop yield and quality, transition to more environmentally friendly practices, reduce reliance on human workers (some regions are experiencing shortages), reduce overheads and increase profit margins.
Traditional methods of fertilizing and irrigation involve the blanket coverage of large areas of land with chemical fertilizers. This method does not consider the specific needs of the plants and it is not environmentally friendly. These practices lead to soil degeneration and erosion, which is destroying farmland across the globe.
New robotic fertilization systems use optical sensors, such as multispectral cameras, laser-type sensors, and RGB, to precisely apply fertilizer where needed. Recent developments with multispectral cameras have focussed on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) devices, which analyze plant growth to make informed decisions about fertilizer application.
Additionally, robot technologies that implement laser-type sensors are being leveraged to improve row crop production. One important example of this is the Sureveg project.
Another current application of agricultural robots is autonomous vehicles and equipment. Increasingly, farms are using self-driving equipment containing technology to process and calculate their position and speed, as well as detect and avoid obstacles such as humans, animals, and objects. In Scotland, for example, the Dutch-developed AgBot 5.115T2 autonomous tractor has seen rapid adoption following its launch.
Autonomous tractors and other vehicles have become important in addressing widespread challenges such as worker shortages and reducing the carbon footprint of the agricultural industry. Autonomous vehicles and equipment can drastically reduce the carbon emissions associated with agricultural processes as it allows farms to switch from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment to those powered by renewable sources.
Autonomous Electric Tractor - Future of Farming | John Deere
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Hot Topics in the Agricultural Robot Market
As mentioned above, robots are used to help the agricultural market overcome some of its biggest challenges. Currently, hot topics in the agricultural robot market are those that are relevant to addressing challenges such as reducing the sector’s carbon footprint, enhancing crop yield and quality to address the looming food crisis, and reducing farms’ reliance on human workers to address global worker shortages.
In the field of autonomous vehicles, in particular, several launches have happened recently. For example, one of the world’s biggest farming equipment manufacturers, John Deere, recently announced the launch of its first autonomous tractor that will be on sale in 2022.
Drones are another important area of development in the agricultural robot market. While drones are not specific to the agricultural sector, they significantly impact how farms monitor crops, apply fertilizer, and control irrigation.
The Current Global Agricultural Robot Market
The global agricultural robot market was valued at over $43 billion in 2021. It is estimated that the market will grow at a CAGR of 9.9% between 2022 and 2028 to reach a total market value of more than $81 billion by the end of the forecast period.
Much of this predicted growth will be fueled by the role played by agricultural robots in addressing some of the most pressing challenges that the agricultural industry currently faces. These challenges are those touched on above: climate change, the food crisis, and worker shortages.
North America currently represents the largest market in the agricultural robot market, accounting for roughly one-third of sales in 2021. North America takes this position mostly due to the drone market in the US. Currently, the US is the largest adopter of drones in the agriculture sector. Already farms in the US are using drones in a variety of agricultural applications, including chemical spraying, crop monitoring, seeding, irrigation control, and more. They are leading the industry in terms of drone adoption.
Asia-Pacific represents another key region for the agricultural robot market. Between 2022 and 2028 it is predicted that market growth will be strongest in this region.
The agricultural robot market is currently highly competitive, with major players in a competition to gain a stronger foothold. Currently, the key global market players are Deere & Company, Trimble Inc., AGCO Corporation, Delaval, DJI All Rights Reserved, Boumatic, Lely, Agjunction, Topcon, and Ageagle Aerial Systems Inc.
Others include YANMAR HOLDINGS Co., Ltd., Farming Revolution Gmbh, Ecorobotix Ltd, Harvest Automation, Naïo Technologies, ROBOTICS PLUS, CNH Industrial, and KUBOTA Corporation.
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Future Directions of the Agricultural Robot Market
The agricultural robot market will be driven by the need to address key challenges, such as reducing the carbon footprint of the agricultural sector, enhancing crop yield and quality to address food insecurity and the growing population, and reducing reliance on human workers to overcome worker shortages.
Over the next few years, it is likely that these key drivers will remain. However, the market is also fairly young and competitive; therefore, it is likely that as technology develops, different directions may emerge. Also, there is the possibility that other social factors may emerge or grow in importance that will impact the agricultural industry, adjusting the demands placed on the sector, which will carry through to the agricultural robot market.
We will likely see many launches of new technology in the agricultural robot market in the coming years. The sector has the potential to grow and develop rapidly and is being driven by social factors. Due to the relatively young nature of the industry and the competitive atmosphere of the current market, there is a potential for established or emerging companies to disrupt the sector with new technology, particularly in related sectors such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor technology mature.
Overall, we will likely see the agricultural market benefit considerably from developments in the robotics sector, which will likely help it to reduce carbon emissions, feed the growing population, and survive worker shortages.
References and Further Reading
Brian Henderson. June (2023). The Scotsman. Robotic tractor ready for Scotland's fields [online]. Available at: https://www.scotsman.com/country-and-farming/robotic-tractor-ready-for-scotlands-fields-3723324
Kristen Houser. January (2022). Freethink. John Deere unveils its first fully autonomous tractor [online]. Available at: https://www.freethink.com/technology/john-deere-autonomous-tractor
Cruz Ulloa, C., et al. (2022). Trend Technologies for Robotic Fertilization Process in Row Crops. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 9. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frobt.2022.808484/full
June (2021). University of Reading. Robot farmers could improve jobs and help fight climate change – if they’re developed responsibly [online]. Available at: https://research.reading.ac.uk/research-blog/robot-farmers-could-improve-jobs-and-help-fight-climate-change-if-theyre-developed-responsibly/
March (2021). Blue Weave Consulting. Global Agricultural Robots Market to Surpass 81 Billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 9.9% during the forecast period | BlueWeave Consulting [online]. Available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/03/21/2406862/0/en/Global-Agricultural-Robots-Market-to-Surpass-81-Billion-by-2028-at-a-CAGR-of-9-9-during-the-forecast-period-BlueWeave-Consulting.html
SureVeg [online]. Core Organic Cofund. Available at: https://projects.au.dk/coreorganiccofund/core-organic-cofund-projects/sureveg