The question was one of many during the Q&A at the annual Farm Press Peanut Efficiency Award Breakfast, and it received some of the most imaginative answers.
"If I could give you a robot to do one thing on your farm, what would that robot do?" Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission, asked the panel of farmers who were on stage together in front of the audience packed with the peanut industry heavyweights at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Florida July 20.
It was a great question.
The Q&A panel included PEA winners from 2020 and 2021. The conference and PEA award program were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Farm Press hosted the winners from both years at the 2021 conference.
The farmers on the panel annually grow more than just peanuts, collectively accounting for more than 30,000 acres, including grains, soybeans, cotton, peanuts and cattle. They came from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.
The Mullek family farms in Alabama, about 20 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. Brothers Michael, Tim and Mark and their dad, Joe, were the 2020 PEA winners for the lower Southeast. Michael represented the family on the panel that day.
"We have some serious wildlife management problems in our area. It's mostly with deer but with some hogs, too. But we'd like a robot to eliminate wildlife in fields. Yes, a killer robot, and I know there are some liability issues with that," Mullek said, to the outburst laughter of the crowd.
Kirk Jones farms in Windsor, Va. He was the PEA 2020 winner for the upper Southeast. Earlier in the panel discussion, he said labor was a big challenge in his part of the world. He also said his father, J.W., liked taking care of their cattle, but that he didn't – at all.
"The robot would definitely take care of the cows. That robot would do nothing but cows," Jones said. The crowd responding with laughter. "Everything else, I can handle. And my daddy will get his wish. When he's gone, we'll still have the cows."
Ryan Dill and family farm in Brownfield, Texas. Ryan and Tanner Hogue, his brother-in-law, represented the family on the panel. Ryan is the son of the late Tony Dill, who received the 2021 Peanut Efficiency Award for the Southwest posthumously. Access to enough water to grow anything around Brownfield is always a concern.
"If you could build me a robot to repair pivots and wells, I'll take one of those," Ryan said.
"First thing I'd have my robot do, is build me another robot," Tanner said, again to the laughter of the crowd. "I'm going to need two robots: One to make my wife happy with her job and one to take care of the pigweed."
For those working in the agriculture automation fields, take note of these take-home suggestions, and let us know what you come up with.