Economics of robots and automation in field crop production

James Lowenberg-DeBoer, Iona Yuelu Huang*, Vasilis Grigoriadis, Simon Blackmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
140 Downloads (Pure)


This study reviewed research published after 1990 on the economics of agricultural mechatronic automation and robotics, and identified research gaps. A systematic search was conducted from the following databases: ScienceDirect, Business Source Complete, Wiley, Emerald, CAB Abstract, Greenfile, Food Science Source and AgEcon Search. This identified 4817 documents. The screening of abstracts narrowed the range to a dataset of 119 full text documents. After eligibility assessment, 18 studies were subjected to a qualitative analysis, with ten focused on automation of specific horticultural operations and eight related to autonomous agricultural equipment. All of the studies found some scenarios in which automation and robotic technologies were profitable. Most studies employed partial budgeting considering only costs and revenues directly changed by the introduction of automation or robotics and assuming everything else constant. None examined cropping system changes, or regional and national impacts on markets, trade and labour demand. The review identified a need for in-depth research on the economic implications of the technology. Most of the studies reviewed estimated economic implications assuming that technology design parameters were achieved and/or based on data from prototypes. Data are needed on the benefits and problems with using automation and robotics on farm. All of the studies reviewed were in the context of agriculture in developed countries, but many of the world’s most pressing agricultural problems are in the developing world. Economic and social research is needed to understand those developing country problems, and guide the engineers and scientists creating automation and robotic solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-299
Number of pages22
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number2
Early online date17 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Automation
  • Crop production
  • Economics
  • Farm labour
  • Profit
  • Robot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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