Emerging Tech

Artificial Intelligence Is Coming to a Farm Near You

Today, the U.S. has 11.3 million open jobs.

But there are just 6.3 million unemployed workers.

Despite companies adding 3.8 million employees to their workforces last year, we still have a big gap between the number of openings and the number of available workers.

 

The big spike in unemployment in March 2020 marked the start of the pandemic. More than 120,000 businesses closed, putting more than 30 million U.S. workers out of jobs.

Since that peak, unemployment has slowly declined. But the number of job openings has continued to increase. Help wanted signs can be found just about everywhere in the U.S.

Part of the problem is the number of retiring Americans. Since January 2020, 2.2 million Americans have retired. And they don’t plan to return to the workforce.

So how can we possibly make up the difference between the number of openings and the number of available workers?

In a word, robots.

The New Big Business

Today, robots are smarter than ever thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Some companies have replaced “the midnight watchman” with them. These robots are on patrol both indoors and outdoors, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Other robots vacuum carpets or polish floors. In the retail environment, some robots even clean the floor and take inventory at the same time.

In hospital and commercial environments, companies use robots to disinfect floors and shelves. Other robots can promote on-sale items.

The beauty of using robots for these menial tasks is that they do their jobs consistently, they don’t take breaks and they don’t hang out by the water cooler with other robots.

Plus, a robot costs less to operate than a company would have to pay an employee to do the same job.

Now, surprisingly, robots aren’t taking away jobs from existing employees. They’re actually freeing up humans to do higher-level tasks.

And because of the current labor shortage, robots are becoming big business.

In 2020, the global robotics market was $12.2 billion. That number is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.7% through 2030.

At that point, the market will be worth $150 billion annually.

And it’s not just hospitals, businesses and warehouses that are going robotic…

Down on the Farm

Even farmers have started to adopt robots. Large dairy farms are using robots to milk cows.

And the popularity of autonomous tractors is quickly gaining speed. Deere & Company (NYSE: DE) believes this market is going to take off next year and has acquired Bear Flag Robotics to help automate its tractors and combines.

Deere is now rolling out its first autonomous tractor. That should be a boon to farmers, who often operate on very thin margins.

Although it may seem like automated tractors and floor-scrubbing robots don’t have much in common, the control electronics in each are quite similar.

Both use GPS and AI technology to “learn” where they are supposed to go. Once they’ve mapped out a field or a store, they never have to do it again.

In 2020, the global agricultural robotics market was $4.9 billion. That’s going to more than double to $11.9 billion by 2026.

Autonomous tractors and harvesting equipment are still new. And no farmer wants to be a guinea pig. So adoption has been slow up until this point.

But as automation becomes the normal way of doing business in the agricultural world, this sector will reach a tipping point.

Our labor shortage may persist for years. Baby boomers continue to retire, leaving a big void in the nation’s workforce.

But robots are easing the burden. They’re doing the menial, low-paying jobs that companies have trouble filling.

As robots get smarter, more and more companies will add them to their workforces. Savvy investors will want to have some exposure to this big disruption as it gets underway.

Good investing,

Dave

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