MSU’s Agricultural Autonomy Institute revolutionizes future of agriculture

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – One of the main focuses of the new Agricultural Autonomy Institute at Mississippi State is economic development within the state, but it goes much deeper than that.

According to the institute, it is 87% harder to fill farming jobs than in previous years. The Agricultural Autonomy Institute offers a solution.

Robots herding cattle and picking cotton, self-driving tractors, and drones roaming the landscape. The future of agriculture can be seen today at Mississippi State University.

Director of the Agricultural Autonomy Institute Dr. Alex Thomasson said farmers finding labor is becoming more difficult due to the dangers and difficulties that come with the work.

“Frankly, I would say the agricultural autonomy institute is the first of its kind nationwide,” Thomasson said. “We’ve still got a growing population worldwide, and we need to use automated systems to keep up with food production needs.”

Associate Director Madison Dixon said these autonomous systems will revolutionize dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks.

“I would say this is really the next generation of precision agriculture,” Dixon said. “What we don’t want to do is to put human beings into hazardous locations to perform an otherwise dangerous job. Using an autonomous vehicle to be able to perform those is ultimately going to help us improve the safety of certain agricultural tasks that are just inherently dangerous. It’s gonna help us from putting people into dangerous hazardous areas when we otherwise shouldn’t have to.”

Thomasson said the overall goal is to increase production and profitability within the industry and the state, along with developing research, workforce management, and adding technology with traditional machinery.

“I think if we’re able to develop autonomous machinery, particularly harvesting, we will ultimately be able to lessen the burden on finding workers elsewhere and be able to identify people,” Thomasson said. “If we do the workforce development, we can have Mississippi people who are overseeing these machines as opposed to driving them and operating them.”

The Agricultural Autonomy Institute expects its mission to grow in the coming years.

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