Automation has been shaping world agriculture since the early twentieth century. Motorized mechanization has brought significant benefits in terms of improved productivity, reduced drudgery and more efficient allocation of labour, but also some negative environmental impacts. More recently, a new generation of digital agricultural automation technologies has appeared, with the potential to further enhance productivity, as well as resilience, while also addressing the environmental sustainability challenges driven by past mechanization.
The State of Food and Agriculture 2022 looks into the drivers of agricultural automation, including the more recent digital technologies. Based on 27 case studies, the report analyses the business case for adoption of digital automation technologies in different agricultural production systems across the world. It identifies several barriers preventing inclusive adoption of these technologies, particularly by small-scale producers. Key barriers are low digital literacy and lack of an enabling infrastructure, such as connectivity and access to electricity, in addition to financial constraints. Based on the analysis, the publication suggests policies to ensure that disadvantaged groups in developing regions can benefit from agricultural automation and that automation contributes to sustainable and resilient agrifood systems.