Farmers everywhere are confronted with the reality that their land can’t be upheld, losing them significant amounts of money, and causing them to overwork due to labour shortages. Due to this labour shortage, £60 million in food has been wasted on farms across the UK. The National Farmers Union (NFU) found that at least £22 million worth of fruit and vegetables have been wasted in this last 8 months alone. This is particularly heart-breaking during the current cost of living crisis wherein thousands of people across the UK are struggling to make ends meet, choosing between feeding their children or keeping them warm. Growers also predict a further decrease in production, at -4.4% in 2023.
The NFU produced a survey, in which 40% of participants said they had suffered significant crop loss due to the labour shortage, similar to California Farm Bureau Federation’s findings where 20% of farmers are unable to finish harvest due to 70% of labour-intensive farms having a shortage of workers.
56% of the NFU’s survey also admitted that production has fallen by an average of 20%, likely a result of the severe lack of seasonal workers from the EU and other parts. With less than 4% of seasonal agricultural labourers coming from the UK due to living in built-up areas with no commutable access to farms, the farms are expected to continue to rot, waste, and dry out.
Up to 60,000 farmers across the globe have been unable to get visas, putting 50% of the agriculture workforce on a backburn. This has left 38,000 accepted visas entering the UK as a seasonal worker, despite the farming industry needing 70,000 alone. This is largely due to Brexit and the invasion of Ukraine.
Brexit has significantly reduced access to temporary workers coming in from the EU, and the Ukraine war has resulted in nearly all men of ‘combat age’ being prevented from leaving the country. Ukrainians formed a large proportion of the British agricultural labourers, 67% of the total seasonal workforce, and with the average age of farmers in the UK being 59 years old (and only 9% of British farmers being under the age of 39), the lack of assistance has shattered the harvest. Drought-tolerant crops (maize) are failing, wildfires are putting large areas of farmland at risk, and milk production is at an all-time low nationally as cows are being deprived of their natural diets.
Thankfully, there are solutions. Autonomous, completely driverless, and semi-driverless technology can pick up the routine, assisting in repetitive, labour-intensive work for a fraction of the price. These machines are able to work 24/7 in nearly all weather conditions, and in any visibility. This means more harvest, less cost. Autonomous vehicles are essentially computers, meaning they process and store all farming data, helping land be saved and nourished before it’s too late. Sampling soil manually can lead to making mistakes and causing errors as high as 20% and leading to major overestimations for expenses and wastage of products for farmers who believe they need more or less product than they really do. With the help of Cavonix robotic soil-samplers, they can periodically test soil from the same plot season to season, benefitting farmers who will then know when volumes of products increase and decrease, and give annual overviews of any changes flagged.
Mobile autonomy is a complete, real, and unmanned farming application for navigation and perception, saving money, time, and labour. Tackling time-management, worker shortage, technological obstacles and costs, farmers can win big and lose small. As the weather is everchanging, it disrupts 50% of the planting season, so farmers need to adjust their operation. Climate Change can be adapted to with these sensor-infused autonomous machines, using LiDAR and Radar, proprietary algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, rapid technology development, and CAV software: record temperatures can be prepared for, and with the large amount of efficiency and manpower one autonomous tractor will compensate for, the few short days missed harvesting due to sun damage will likely go unmissed as they will be made up for by the peak productivity performed by machines the rest of harvest season.
These autonomous machines are completely electric and produce zero carbon emissions, making them a sustainable, more efficient alternative for the endless exhausting work that farmers are impossibly trying to complete without them.