The global agricultural sector is tackling a multitude of challenges, from climate change to population growth, and the growing demand for food. Robotics offers a much-needed solution, providing answers from vertical farms to drones. This has catalyzed the demand for field robots, which reached sales of $1.1 billion in 2020 and will hit $11 billion by 2030, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Robotics in Agriculture’ reveals how robotics is helping to achieve precision agriculture and usher in a technological revolution in the sector. Precision agriculture refers to the application of agrochemicals in a prescriptive manner to minimize waste and pollution. This is an important solution to the growing demand for food and subsequently fertilizers.
Rachel Foster Jones, Thematic Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Robots can harvest crops, pick fruits, weed, milk livestock, apply fertilizers and monitor farm operations. Robotics will, therefore, be key in helping to ease labor shortages, reduce pressure on natural resources and meet the global demand for agricultural products, while also helping the sector adapt to the challenges of climate change.”
GlobalData forecasts that the global robotics market was worth $45.8 billion in 2020 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29% between 2020 and 2030, reaching $568 billion by 2030.
The report also reveals that the commercial drone market will overtake military drones and become the largest segment of the drone market by revenue in the next few years and agricultural drones are a key driver. Agricultural drones are unmanned aerial vehicles used in farming for yield optimization and monitoring.
Jones adds: “The Chinese drone industry is the largest in the world, and the country is leading innovation in agricultural drones, with Chinese companies DJI and XAG paving the way. These drones provide imaging and surveying tasks, whilst crop spraying, and terrain monitoring will become key growth areas. Both companies were the most active in terms of patent applications in the agri-drone sector. Between 2018 to 2021, they published 421 patents, reinforcing China’s dominant position in the global drone industry."
The report also shows that hiring for robotics-related roles has risen significantly in the agricultural sector. According to GlobalData’s hiring database, robotics-related vacancies increased by 80% between September 2019 and September 2022.
Jones continues: “Both traditional agricultural companies, such as Cargill and Syngenta, and agricultural start-ups are hiring in robotics. The agricultural sector is becoming increasingly aware of the potential of robotics as traditional companies are trying to improve their internal expertise of this important themes rather than simply forming partnerships. As more traditional agricultural companies try to enhance their robotics expertise, increased acquiring activity will be experienced by the sector.”