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Agricultural automation

Effects on labor and society due to agricultural automation

How could technological innovation impact the future of the agricultural and farming workforce? That was the focus of a workshop recently hosted by Washington State University on the Tri-Cities campus.

The workshop, “Effects of Labor and Automation on Social Sustainability and Resilience in American Agriculture,” was split between classroom presentations and a field day. The program included speakers from around the world who discussed technical innovations in agriculture, the economic impacts of new technologies and the social implications of innovation.

Jill McCluskey, professor of economics at WSU.

“There was a labor shortage and the situation only got worse. At the same time, we have a lot of researchers working on new ways to automate this. Much agricultural work can be dangerous and can be menial and simply difficult. In the long run, for at least some part, it is more sustainable to introduce some automation into the system. »

During the workshop, WSU shared innovations in specialty crop harvesting technologies and showcased innovations in dairy technologies. Meat and dairy producers, according to WSU, have already looked at technological pathways that could fill their labor shortages.

McCluskey noted that all perspectives are essential in this ongoing discussion.

“It will be a successful event if we can present and discuss different perspectives and we can better understand the issues of scientific and technical breakthroughs that are happening with researchers from universities and the Tree Fruit Research Commission. Also, to understand the worker side and some of the significant challenges and issues that are going on there, to understand the industry side, the producer side, to understand what their challenges are and what they need.

The program included other speakers from the University of California at Berkeley, Penn State University and Montana State University.

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