For most of our human history agriculture has provided the most of employment.
Depending on the Country over half, and up to two third, of the population was farming. This started to change with the development of commerce in the XVII century and changed even more with the Industrial Revolution that attracted more and more people to factories and it further changed with the “output” of the industrial revolution that mechanised the work in the fields requiring less and less human labour (see graph).
Robotisation in the last part of the XX century has further decreased the need of manpower in farming that has reached an all time low of 1-2% overall employment.
Now Harper Adams University has demonstrated all robotised farming, from planting, weeding, tending and harvesting with zero human labour (if we disregard the robots maintenance, quite a different kind of job, requiring quite different skills). This is the result of the project Hands Free Hectare.
The demonstration was carried out in England, cultivating one acre and a half of barley without any farmer intervention.
The robo-farmers included autonomous vehicles and drones to identify the best lay out of ditches and depth of channels to irrigate the barley (precision agriculture) and then to dig them. They also took care of applying optimised quantity of fungicides, herbicides and fertilisers at the right time and where they were needed.
Interesting to note that the orchestration of the robots, to create an autonomous system was designed from scratch but several of the machines used where up to 25 years old (tractors and the likes) upgraded in the control part to be connected to the orchestrator.