I’ve attended a fair number of grower seminars around the country on the potential new technology headed for the farm, and I’ve noticed something fascinating. Many of the growers are eager to learn, almost on the edge of their seats. But nearly as many sit as far back as possible, and were they turtles, would surely sink back into their shells.
I assumed these growers found the technology intimidating, that they were uncomfortable with the science and, therefore, were withdrawing. But in talking to them, I have found that even if they didn’t fully understand the technology, that wasn’t what bothered them. It was the practical application.
First of all, naturally, was how in the world to pay for such expensive machines. But there were other questions. A frequent one: What do I do when it breaks down? The innovators behind this mechanical/robotic technology say not to worry, but try telling a grower that. Of course they’re going to worry about a piece of equipment no one on the farm knows how to fix.
But what if you didn’t have to treat robots like robots? What if you could treat them, or at least pay them, like people? Of course they wouldn’t be paid piece rate, but you get the idea.
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For example, there’s a company in Nashville, TN, called Hirebotics. They supply robots to factories that perform extremely repetitive industrial work. For them to work out in the orchard or vineyard would obviously be a great deal more complicated; witness how many years it’s taking to develop mechanical harvesters.
But we will see them, as the people increasingly become unavailable to do the work, and the same principle could be made to apply: Like people, robots could be paid by the hour.