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Thank the robots for a modern agriculture sector

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

Before University, and this going back a while now, I had a job straw carting over the summer in Warwickshire.

It was back-breaking, arduous working from dawn until dusk. We collected small bales of straw from the fields that our employer, a pig farmer, had bought from grain growers in the region. 

We would trawl into a field, equipped with a conveyor belt over the top of an old lorry tractor unit. Some of us would pile the bales onto the belt, others would stack them onto the trailer pulled by the tractor. There were a couple of broke teachers using the long holiday to get some extra cash, blokes like me and a group of weirdos (I’m trying to be polite). These were former Warwick University students who were perpetual undergrads. They bummed around the UK most of the year, but carted straw in the summer. One used to walk from London to Warwickshire every year. I asked his mate, how does he afford the trip. I was told he walked as far as he could in a day, then fell into a hedge when he needed to sleep. The guy never changed his clothes!

After about six weeks, I was the fittest I have ever been and had quite a bit of cash in hand. Looking back through rose-coloured glasses back it was bliss. You can’t do it anymore. Straw is baled into huge round, or oblong bales. And large mechanical grippers on tractors means a field can be cleared by just one person. Soon, an automated tractor will do it all. 

Am I sad? Yes in one way. In other ways, no. It was hard physical work and one summer, to be honest, was enough. Robots will soon be doing that job and I wish them well. But I doubt  a robot would occasionally look up, wistfully, and wonder what lay ahead of them on life’s journey.