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Source: blog by Michael Langemeier and Michael Boehlje, Center for Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University

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A recent farmdoc daily article (April 9, 2021) discussed a number of automation and precision agriculture technologies that will be increasingly used in production agriculture. The adoption and use of these technologies will require additional expertise and skills of managers and the workforce on the farm in the future. This article explores the capabilities and skills that may be needed to manage automation and precision agriculture technologies, and provides a list of options for farms to build the workforce of the future.

Staffing and Managing the Workforce
Even though the quantity of labor used in production agriculture has been declining for decades, improving labor efficiency and finding the "right people" for the "right jobs" remains imperative to the success of farms and ranches. In general, labor efficiency can be improved by investing in more capital per worker and/or the adoption of less labor-intensive technologies.

As a farm increases capital per worker, particularly in today's environment where many of the new technologies utilize automation, it is important to assess whether the farm's employees have the prerequisite capabilities and skills to fully take advantage of new technologies. As noted by Langemeier and Boehlje (2017), technology is a key driver influencing both financial performance and consolidation in production agriculture.

Precision farming will require a different (or at least enhanced) "mental model" of the farm manager and farm workforce. Choosing and using precision farming tools and technologies requires an enhanced appreciation and understanding of science and fact-based decision making. This includes a more advanced understanding of the biological and physical sciences to frame these decisions, and the ability to use data analytics and quantitative analysis tools such as statistical analysis and optimization models to make these decisions. It is thus essential to bring new capabilities and skills into the farm of the future.

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