The future of farming is already with us, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) wizards examine the pain points within agriculture and consider how to cater to the global demand for food requirements to feed a global population expected to increase by 50% by 2050*. But what does it mean when it comes to insuring the farm?
This month, John Deere unveiled its fully autonomous 8R tractor at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This tractor, which can be completely controlled by a mobile phone, is not a prototype but something that will be on sale later this year.
The fact that a tractor should have a place in a consumer electronics show says everything about the way farming is moving. The tractor comes with GPS guidance but also six pairs of stereo cameras, 360° obstacle detection and what is described as a “deep neural network.” It can analyse each pixel within images within 100 milliseconds and determine whether or not the tractor should move or stop.
It also continually checks its position relative to a geofence, so accurately operates where it should be doing with incredible precision. The farmer needs only drive it to the field, configure it and then sit back, analysing live video, data and metrics, and adjusting speed and depth, if they wish.
Whilst this is happening in the UK, in the USA’s Silicon Valley, a recruitment of AI specialists is underway, so agricultural machinery specialist, Kubota, and the co-founder of Tesla, Ian Wright, can develop vineyard-based field robots**. These will move around vineyards, trimming branches and checking on grapes, using in-built camera images. The plan is to eventually have them harvesting the grapes too.
In many ways, farming is becoming as much about tech as it is about animal husbandry or crop knowledge. New AI-armed equipment will change the cost structure at farms, with more expenditure on equipment and less on labour and items such as pesticides. The required sums insured for physical plant and equipment are likely to increase by some way and it is vital that farmers take good stock of all the equipment they possess and its replacement cost.
Such equipment is likely to be as attractive to thieves and gangs stealing to order as current tractors and machines are, but also costly to replace in the event of a fire or severe flooding that affects electronic components.
With greater reliance on plant – albeit high-tech – there will also be more dependence on it, making plant breakdown insurance another key consideration. Business interruption on the farm will also be more of a factor as a result of cyber-crime or malicious hacking into systems, so cyber insurance would be a strong consideration.
Health and safety on the farm will also go through a sea-change, with fewer employees to have to protect and train. Those remaining will have to be aware of new risks around automated machinery and electronics.
As the world of tech responds to pressing global needs, farmers need to stay abreast of their current situation and ensure their insurance matches it and provides them with a safety net of protection. For the time being, this might be about protecting conventional tractors and insuring herds or crops, but who knows what next month or next year may bring?
To keep your farm insurance in line with your new needs, talk to an informed insurance broker today. To find one who understands your agricultural world, please get in touch.