Farm Forward with Robotics?

Posted on: February 26, 2016 by Kees Kranenburg

It was Shell CEO Wagner who stated that the industry could learn from the agricultural sector. He was referring to the way Research, Education and Information for farmers were organized and interlinked within the agricultural sector. At that moment (1981) Wagner was chairman of the Dutch Government Committee to advise the government on its industrial policy and he put the agricultural sector as an example. The agricultural industry has developed itself from a hand and horse-driven plough-based cottage industry to a mechanized and automated production sector. This was enabled by closely-coupled research, education and providing information to farmers.

More automation

The analogy with the IT industry has always been fascinating to me. In my blog “Wanted: The Software Industry Architect” I pleaded that the IT industry should increase its labor productivity by looking what has been done and achieved in the agricultural sector. More automation: replacing labor-intensive tasks.


Today, automation and robotics are entering the field of play and are here to stay. The main objective is to reduce operating costs and to release talented people to add value elsewhere in the organization. Other significant objectives in IT automation are error elimination, speed to deploy and improved insight through wider knowledge and experience aggregation.  The largest impact will be job transformation where humans work alongside robots.


Software lifecycle automation is applied in DevOps: automated testing, automated software quality control and automated deployment. Robotics process automation is the use of smart software to replicate process work that was previously done by humans. Intelligent automation systems, trained by IT and business professionals, utilize their collective knowledge to automate service management. Expert systems, consisting of knowledge automation and a natural language processing dialog, give birth to virtual assistants. All of this to enable automated service desks and virtual assistant self-help to increase user experience.

The first step of service automation in IT has been set. The hand and horse-driven plow are replaced by a robot. And, to see the analogy and future of the agriculture sector, please have a look at John Deere’s Farm Forward (YouTube). And imagine what this could do with IT ...

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About Kees Kranenburg

Portfolio manager Application Transformation
Kees Kranenburg is Portfolio manager Application Transformation. His field of play is software development and application management and the organization, processes, methods and tools necessary to professionalize and industrialize them. He advises organizations regarding their application development and management strategy and their sourcing strategy.

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