Robotics to Take Over Agricultural Harvesting… So What Happens to all the Illegal Immigrants Who Currently Do the Work?
Robots may be pricey at first, but those costs will quickly be recouped as industries most conducive to them realize unheard of cost savings from not having to have a mostly human workforce.
Businesses and factories won’t have to deal with sick days (when employees really aren’t sick); drama (from life’s little problems); theft; Obamacare-mandated health insurance; government labor rules and regulations; and outsized minimum wage requirements – to name just a few things.
For farmers – especially large operations that rely on illegal immigrant labor – no more hassles with federal and state governments.
Farming? Yes, even farming is at risk of becoming fully automated thanks to advances in robotics. As reported by Bloomberg News, Japan’s next generation of farmers may actually be robots.
‘Average age is 67’
Spurred by the reality that farmers the world over are aging, retirement for them looms ever larger, and fewer people are turning to the profession, Japanese engineers have turned to robots and driverless tractors to solve the problem.
As Bloomberg reported further:
The Group-of-Seven agriculture ministers meet in Japan’s northern prefecture of Niigata this weekend for the first time in seven years to discuss how to meet increasing food demand as aging farmers retire without successors. With the average age of Japanese farmers now 67, Agriculture Minister Hiroshi Moriyama will outline his idea of replacing retiring growers with Japanese-developed autonomous tractors and backpack-carried robots.
The concept is also rooted in the reality that, without farmers, most of the world won’t eat.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has even warned that, if the problem is allowed to continue, aging farmers will die or retire without replacements, threatening global food security and stability.
In developed countries the average age of a farmer is about 60, according to data gathered by the United Nations. Japan plans to spend tens of millions per year to speed development of autonomous farming equipment in helping to develop 20 kinds of robots, including one that separates over-ripe peaches during harvest time.
“There are no other options for farmers but to rely on technologies developed by companies if they want to raise productivity while they are graying,” Makiko Tsugata, senior analyst at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo, said, as reported by Bloomberg. “The government should help them adopt new technologies.”
Available arable land going unused
The meeting will also be attended by agriculture ministers and officials from other countries, including Germany, Italy and Canada. At the beginning of a bilateral meeting with Vilsack, Moriyama said that he would be serving Kobe beef, which Tokyo wants to promote internationally.
Already in water-locked Japan, available land for cultivation is going unused. In fact, Bloomberg reported, unused land has doubled over the past 20 years, reaching 420,000 hectares (about 1 million acres) in 2015, as farmers have retired and not been replaced by younger ones, Japanese data shows. Of the remaining farmers, about 65 percent of them are 65 years old or older.
As the dearth of younger farmers widens, there are growing concerns that Japan will have to rely more on food imports in the future. Already Japan gets about 60 percent of its food supplies from outside the country.
“Aging farmers are threatening the sustainability of agricultural communities in Japan as the population globally is expanding and raising the need to boost food production to meet demand,” Moriyama said in his opening remarks to the seven-member meeting. “We, as the members of the Group of Seven nations, share common problems and want to discuss them together for a solution.”
In the U.S. – and California, especially, which grows the bulk of food for our country – seasonal farming jobs are just about the only income for millions of illegal alien laborers. A robotic revolution in farming, especially, may be all the “immigration reform” we’ll need to solve that problem.
As for the future of human labor, here is one prediction. It isn’t pretty.