Autonomous Farming: Full Autonomy in 50 years

The cost or availability of food needs to be resolved as a barrier to equality. Within 50 years an unprecedented level of autonomous farming can be achieved


There can never be equality among humanity until all barriers to what is required for integration into society are provided without restraint, cost, or variance. Things such as housing, food, water, and in more recent history electricity. This post is designed to only be a starting point for a discussion about creating food equality across the human experience. The timelines proposed are designed to be ambitious but achievable. Each stage of the autonomous farming timeline can be used to construct a maturity methodology.

Phase 1: In the Beginning (Year 0 to 5)

Where to Begin

The first phase of autonomous farming requires the identification of the most practical implementation of which types of crops will require the least amount of effort and capital for full life-cycle automation and which have the highest social benefit. This standard would disqualify crops such as tobacco, fruit and nut trees, and tender crops such as tomatoes. Crops such as corn, grains, potatoes, ground fruit such as squash and melons seem to be sensible choices.

What To Automate

When choosing what to automate in the early days the best choice is to build off of preceding work. Leveraging some of the advancements found in autonomous cars and autonomous mowers is ideal. Planters and harvesters can be be fitted with logic that will permit equipment to work within a GPS boundary that is enhanced by either optics or perimeter sensor devices. The goal her should be to automate the planting and harvesting of crops in a defined boundary. These will be tier 1 machines.

Phase 1 End-State

Once phase one is completed farmers should have access to equipment they can drive to a field, set the dial (figuratively), then leave. The equipment in this phase can be fueled by fossil fuels or electricity. No logic exists that integrates weather conditions, soil conditions, moisture levels, or any other farming variables. All farming variables are still accounted for by the farmer as is the movement of equipment and the timing of farming events. Farm equipment supply organizations will begin to offer subscription services to maintain and upgrade their autonomous equipment.

Phase 2: Digging In (Year 5 to 13)

Increasing Autonomy Depth

Enhancing the features of the equipment sold will be a driver for autonomous equipment manufacturers. This driver should lead to the ability of equipment to travel to fields by themselves and dock to a charging station. The farming equipment sold in this phase should be heavily primarily electric. As autonomous farming vehicles will be transporting themselves outside of the confines of the field advanced safety are required.

Increasing Autonomous Farming Breadth

As tier 1 machines receive enhanced autonomy tier 2 machines should start to receive automation. Tier 2 equipment should consist of Tier 2a and 2b equipment. The 2a equipment will consist of other farming machinery that augments and enhances the tier 1 equipment. 2b equipment would consist of harvesters for tree based crops.

Phase 2 End-State

Farmers still monitor soil, environmental, and other variables. Equipment is operated from a central location instead of remote fields. Vehicles are electric and smart enough to determine where and when to have their batteries charged. Tillers, fertilizers, and other support equipment receives phase 1 automation. Tier 2 equipment also receives phase 1 automation. Manufacturers also begin to slow the production of legacy equipment that is being replaced by autonomous equipment.

Phase 3: Avoiding Mud Pits (Year 13 to 26)

Continuing to Till

At this point tier 1 equipment should be integrated with weather tracking, calendar, and soil moisture sensing capabilities. These features will permit the automation of precision planting times, enable the equipment to shelter to avoid inclement weather, and prevent seed waste.

Spreading Automation

Tier 2 equipment will be fitted with tier 1 phase 2 capabilities. The appearance of tier 3 devices make their appearance as well. Tier 3 devices consist of bringing phase 2 automation to tier 2 devices. Tender crop devices will also reach phase 1 capabilities.

Phase 3 End-State

Farmers no longer need to operate machinery to plant or harvest their crops. Their main focus shifts to maintaining soil quality and the logistics of selling and moving their crops to distributors. Manufacturers should diversify their subscription services based on customer need. Harvesting may be one subscription, tilling another, planting another, and so forth.

Phase 4: The Measure of Autonomous Farming Mud

The Science of Mud

Finally comes the time for soil to be measured and integrated. During this period tier 1 devices gain the capability to measure soil nutrient levels. Now tier 1 farmers have the capability of a fully automated crop cycles. They can focus on crop rotation, distribution, and maintenance.

Flinging Autonomous Farming Mud

Tier 2 and 3 devices will be upgraded to phase 3 capabilities. The work has already been implemented and proven across tier one devices. Only the “kinks” or “bugs” need to be worked out. This will require some retrofitting but significantly less effort than the initial build for tier 1 devices. Manufactures will begin to discontinue non-autonomous vehicle production.

Phase 4 End-State

Autonomous vehicles will be the only ones actively being produced by the leading manufacturers. All devices will have the capabilities to understand weather, ground moisture, self-charge, have highly advanced safety features, and avoid circumstances that will damage the machinery. Tier one devices will be able to use artificial intelligence to correlate soil conditions, weather conditions, and time-of-year to maximize production and reduce waste.

Phase 5: Into the Autonomous Farming Future (Year 41 to 50)

Equalizing Autonomous Farming Devices

During this phase all tiers of devices should reach equilibrium. Manufacturers should have shifted the entirety of their focus to their subscription offerings and supportive services. Farming should have reached unprecedented levels of efficiency. Food products should reach consumers with unprecedentedly low cost.

Expanding Autonomous Farming Operations

As all tier of devices reach equilibrium a new series of devices should come under development. These devices should have the ability to order product and request crop transport to distributors.

Autonomous Farming Summary

There can be no equality as long as there is hunger. The cost or availability of fresh food needs to be resolved as a barrier to equality. Within a 50 year period an unprecedented level of farming efficiency and productivity can be achieved to bring humanity one step closer to inter-personal equality. Inter-personal equality, it’s a transition from working to get things we need to getting things we want. People no longer need to compete for food, compete (or beg) for clean water from municipalities, worry about homelessness, or worry about electricity.

Autonomous Farming Post-Summary

This post is only one of several to come. I will be posting about electricity, water, and shelter (housing) in future posts. These posts are designed to be an opening for a discussion that will lead to a plan for implementation, they are not designed to be a fully developed roadmap.