O. Spykman et al.: What do small-scale farmers think about agricultural robots?

Bio Information

Olivia Spykman is a researcher in the Digital Farming Group at the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture. Her work at focusses on the socioeconomic evaluation of field robots, which is also the topic of her recently started dissertation project. Olivia is broadly interested in the relationship between food system, society, and environment.

Dr. Andreas Gabriel is a researcher in the Digital Farming Group at the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture and TU Munich.

Moritz Ptaceck is a graduate student at TU Munich.

Dr. Markus Gandorfer is head of the Digital Farming Group at the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture.

Presentation Abstract

As field robots are entering the agricultural sector, information of farmers’ opinions on them is still lacking as most publications on robots for crop production focus on technical information. While some publications have highlighted the economic potential of small robots for small-scale agriculture, the few publications that investigated potential obstacles to their acceptance among farmers stem from large-scale agricultural regions. Information on farmers’ stances towards robots in small-scale regions is thus lacking.

Based on a sample of 174 farmers from Bavaria, a federal state in Germany with an average farm size of approximately 35 ha, we investigate three main research questions: (1) What size of robot do farmers prefer in general; (2) what size of robot do farmers prefer for specific agronomic tasks; and (3) what mode of operation do farmers prefer for robots? We assess these questions based on socio-economic characteristics of survey participants and their evaluation of potential advantages and disadvantages of field robots using X²-based tests.

While no survey participant already owned a field robot, we find that organic farmers are significantly more interested in purchasing this technology than their conventional counterparts. Small robots are more favored in general, but when differentiating by agronomic tasks, they are chosen more often than the other options only for plant protection measures. This aspect is further discussed in the context of workload reduction, particularly for organic farmers, and market availability. We also find that the novel operation mode of technology as a service is least favored by participants, who prefer traditional non-purchasing options such as contracting services or machinery sharing.

Olivia Spykman, Andreas Gabriel, Moritz Ptaceck and Markus Gandorfer

Acknowledgement: We thank Technical University Munich students Karl-Josef Lindl and Frederik Regler for participating in the development and distribution of the questionnaire and in the data curation process.


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