Robotics and automation are far more than buzz words in agriculture, with companies engineering scalable solutions for farm fields of the future. While these technologies will be valuable tools for streamlining predictable farm tasks, automating creative troubleshooting and technical intuition — skills often associated with precision specialists — will be challenging.

Michael Boehlje with Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture acknowledges that the unpredictability of precision service and support will be blended with machine learning capabilities to define the skill sets needed from specialists in the future.

“What we see happening is some changes in the skill sets within dealerships as well as farming operations. Where they are going to have people who are either internally trained and put into a position to do the kinds of things we’re talking about in terms of automation and precision technology in general, and we’re developing outsourcing capacity. Some farmers are finding it’s better to have somebody else help them with their accounting or legal work. We’re seeing that same industry developing with providing data analytics and assessment and prescription development, to help farmers on their operation. It’s going to change dramatically the way we manage farms and the skill sets, as well as within dealerships. The business opportunity for dealerships is providing now those services to farmers who are increasingly willing to share the information and the analysis and need the analysis assistance.”

Boehlje adds that the role of precision specialists will shift in terms of prioritized skills, to accommodate the emerging efficiencies automation and robotics will provide.