Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). 2020. Ground and Aerial Robots for Agricultural Production: Opportunities and Challenges. Issue Paper 70. CAST, Ames, Iowa.


Crop and animal production techniques have changed significantly over the last century. In the early 1900s, animal power was replaced by tractor power that resulted in tremendous improvements in field productivity, which subsequently laid foundation for mechanized agriculture. While precision agriculture has enabled site-specific management of crop inputs for improved yields and quality, precision livestock farming has boosted efficiencies in animal and dairy industries. By 2020, highly automated systems are employed in crop and animal agriculture to increase input efficiency and agricultural output with reduced adverse impact on the environment. Ground and aerial robots combined with artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have potential to tackle the rising food, fiber, and fuel demands of the rapidly growing population that is slated to be around 10 billion by the year 2050. This Issue Paper presents opportunities provided by ground and aerial robots for improved crop and animal production, and the challenges that could potentially limit their progress and adoption. A summary of enabling factors that could drive the deployment and adoption of robots in agriculture is also presented along with some insights into the training needs of the workforce who will be involved in the next-generation agriculture.