On a recent bright, clear day in eastern Nebraska, a small red machine crept through a lush field of soybeans, reports Christina Stella at High Plains Public Radio. From the highway, it looked like a small tractor. Up close, its mess of wires came into focus. So did the laptop strapped to the back.
This is the Flex-Ro (Flexible Robotic Unit), one of several robots across the world being designed and tested to help farmers maximize crop yield, use fewer pesticides, and manage the industry’s dwindling labor market.
It’s a change some early-career farmers are ready to embrace. But for the average farmer, who’s 55 or older and didn’t grow up with computers and tables, transitioning to a higher-tech method of farming will not be easy. In order to work for their consumers, robots will need to be smarter than a person, but designed simply enough for any one to troubleshoot with their own tools.