Emerging technology opens up exciting new possibilities but it is also welcomed with apprehension, generating questions about how it will change the way we work. The very first driverless tractor made its debut this year and is set to make waves across the farming industry. But what does this mean for you? Should we be worried that all this automation is making us redundant?

In answering that question, we need to look at the things that a driverless tractor can and can’t do.

Things that driverless tractors CAN do for you

Driverless tractors boost productivity and cut down on labour costs. In theory, an autonomous tractor could ignore the clock, running independently 24 hours a day. The great thing about this technology is that it fills a very real need, saving time for farmers by freeing them up from hours of monotonous tasks like driving up and down rows of crops across thousands of acres of land to spray the paddocks, tilling the land or sewing seed.

Driverless tractors can provide additional labour when needed, because farm hands are not required all year round and aren’t easy to always hire when needed. Skilled operators like farm owners tend to fill these gaps when they could be spending their valuable time on something more profitable, or with a higher ROI. This is where automation really comes into its own.

Things that driverless tractors CAN’T do for you

On the other hand, there are tasks that will always need human intervention; lifting, shifting, digging and loading are tasks that still require the skill and experience of an actual person to perform. This includes earthmoving, transporting and loading hay onto trucks or into a storage shed, lifting pallets of produce or loading a hopper with grain or fertiliser.

Another possible benefit is that the automation of monotonous tasks could encourage farm hands to upskill themselves, obtaining the knowledge and experience to operate other machinery and enabling them to perform these more skilled tasks, creating the opportunity for higher pay and a more secure and consistent source of income.

The upshot is that driverless tractors will always fill a specific need, but won’t be able to accomplish every task performed in a tractor on farm – so there’s no need to start planning for your early retirement just yet.