The farming landscape across Kentucky could undergo significant change in the decade ahead. Jordan Shockley is an assistant extension professor in agriculture economics at the University of Kentucky. He attended an international precision agriculture event this summer.
Shockley says autonomous farm machinery was at the center of conversation. If it becomes a reality on Kentucky farmland, the farmer might have options. “Maybe a person who traditionally would farm, now has an opportunity to do something different. Provide some off farm income while the farming is still being done. It will take a lot to get a farmer to get out of the seat of a tractor,” said Shockley.
While a driverless tractor might work with some crops, Shockley believes it might not be suitable for grain producers. “I think that will probably be one of the last things that is automated, because the volume of material going through a combine,” explained Shockley.
Shockley says cost of any type of driverless farm machinery will also be an issue. He says the components would likely include sensors, computing power, and intellectual controls.
The Kentucky farm management specialist says autonomous robots for field work has been discussed for a decade. Shockley admits it may be another ten years before such equipment would make a real mark in Kentucky agriculture.