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Are Drones Reaching New Agricultural Heights?

AAEA members present at 2020 ASSA Annual Meeting

The agri-food sector has stepped into the era of automation and digitalization: automatic milking systems are quietly gaining popularity, machinery blueberry harvesters are replacing manual labor, drones are being used to support precision farming, etc. In an AAEA session taking place at the Allied Social Science Association’s Annual Meeting entitiled “Automation and Digitalization in Agriculture” four papers discuss several key issues on automation and digitalization in agriculture.

The organizer of the session, Xiaoxue Du from the University of Idaho says, “First of all, it is not necessarily true that adoption of automation, a labor-saving technology, will lead to less use of labor. For example, labor could be devoted to new tasks generated from new technology. Second, information technology innovations not only affect food sector production efficiency. We may also observe product differentiation such as fresh and processed blueberries where harvest using machinery are going to the latter.  Third, farmers are increasingly developing strategic custom farming to gain access to cutting-edge agricultural technology and highly qualified skills to operate the latter. But this type of transaction involves relatively high transaction costs, which can be taken into account to some extent by both formal and informal contractual arrangements.“

Papers in this session:

  • Toward Economic Foundations of Supply and Demand for Automation in Production Agriculture
    David A. Hennessy, Michigan State University
  • Adoption of Mechanization Solutions for Harvesting Fresh Market Blueberries
    R. Karina Gallardo, Washington State University, Liang Lu, University of Idaho, and Jill McCluskey, Washington State University
  • A General Equilibrium Model of Technology Adoption-Theory and Evidences from Robotic Milking Systems
    Xiaoxue Du, University of Idaho, Thomas Reardon, Michigan State University, Hernan Tejeda, University of Idaho, and Philip Watson, University of Idaho
  • New Outsourced Services and Precision Farming in France
    Geneviève Nguyen, Sociales et de Gestion Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées, J. Brailly, UMR INRA-AGIR, and F. Purseigle, INP-ENSAT

This session will take place on Friday, January 3, from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. To attend this session please contact Allison Scheetz in the AAEA Business Office for your complimentary Media Registration.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Scheetz
Senior Communications Manager
(414) 918-3190