This will probably come as a shock to most of you, but I am a nerd. I like spaceships and laser swords and superheroes.
And funnily enough there aren't many occasions where my nerdy interests crossover and intersect with my work interests. However just lately, there have been a couple of notable exceptions.
For example in the final film to feature Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character, Logan, there are key sequences set in vast GM corn fields that are being tended to by gigantic, automated combine harvesters. In the story set in the not-too-distant future, these machines appear to be continuously working through the night, with no people around to monitor their progress.
More recently, the new Picard Star Trek series, finds Patrick Stewart's titular character retired to his vineyard - where we see autonomous drones, gently floating back and forth above the rows of grapes, spraying the crops without disturbing the environment.
Whilst the agricultural machinery industry isn't quite matching the writers of these speculative fictions just yet, if you listen to key industry figures they will tell you that this is most definitely the way technology for the farming sector is heading. Indeed, they would assert it's the way it must develop.
We've featured a couple of stories in this Weekly Update in recent weeks which highlight that radical thinking for ag equipment is well underway.
Kubota unveiled their concept for what they described as their "dream tractor" at a show in Japan in January. This theoretical design incorporated fully unmanned operation driven by A.I as well as full electrification facilitated by a combination of lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries in order, the manufacturer said, to achieve an environmentally friendly on-farm operation.
Last week meanwhile, we featured the news that the Small Robot Company (SRC), a British agritech start-up for sustainable farming, had announced the industrial design and manufacture of its first fleet of agricultural robots. What's significant about this of course, is that this isn't a concept design of things which might be possible in the future - rather this is actually happening and being put into commercial production right now.
SRC have clearly hit on a concept which investors have belief and faith in. After their announcement of partnering with Tharsus last Friday, they subsequently issued a press release saying they had been initially looking to crowd-fund £700,000 for their concept. In the end what they actually raised was £2.1m, over-funding their target by three times.
In an official statement, SRC said, "This overwhelming support really demonstrates the huge appetite for agritech. It shows just how much demand there is for this new technology."
It's companies and thinking like this which could have huge implications for the industry as a whole and very specifically for the dealer sector.
It begs the question for how long will ag machinery dealers still find themselves selling huge, hefty tractors? What do you think? 30 years? 20? Less?
Experts will tell us that agricultural production techniques are simply not sustainable in their current state. There are only a finite number of harvests left. Something has to change. We are witnessing that early stage of radical evolution today.
Rather than being some sort of death knell for the dealer sector though, should these advancements be seen as an opportunity for the network to grasp? A chance to get in right at the beginning. Because someone is going to have to sell these robots. Someone is going to have to install them. Someone is going to have to fix them when they break down.
It seems hard to deny that that less tractors will be sold in the future. So alternatives need to be sought. Progressive lawn and garden dealers are already seeing increasing and new business through embracing robotic grass cutting solutions. Will it be the same for ag dealers?
So what do you think? Will you have a showroom and a workshop full of robots in years to come? Or do you believe that kind of technology will remain in the realm of science fiction?
Please leave your thoughts below. We may feature your opinions in a future issue of Service Dealer magazine.