Autonomous agriculture in public perception-German consumer segments' view of crop robots

Public acceptance of agricultural technologies is an important determinant of their success. In the case of autonomous crop robots, recent research from Germany suggests that societal acceptance of the technology plays an important role for farmer acceptance of crop robots. Yet little research has been conducted so far into how the public perceives autonomous agricultural technologies like crop robots. Investigating the public’s opinion on crop robots will provide answers to one of farmers’ questions in the decision to invest in crop robots. Through consumer segmentation and hypotheses-based characterization, specific consumer groups with differing attitudes towards crop robots are identified. Two discrete choice experiments on digital and autonomous methods of weed management (n = 675) and tractor size and degree of autonomy (n = 645), conducted as part of a larger representative consumer survey in Germany (n = 2,012), are submitted to a Hierarchical Bayes estimation and subsequent latent class analysis. The identified consumer segments are characterized in a hypotheses-based approach with hypotheses centering on consumer attitudes measured as 5-point Likert-type items and as spontaneous image associations. Both subsamples can be segmented into three groups, which are comparable between the experiments in their socio-economic composition. Results suggest that the German public is largely positively inclined towards autonomous agricultural technologies. The method of weed control is considered more important than the vehicle type (i.e., conventional tractor or crop robot) and vehicle size is considered more important than degree of autonomy. Only the respective smallest consumer segments in the two experiments indicate indifference or a more conservative perspective. Participants’ attitude towards environmental preservation appears to have a positive influence on their evaluation of autonomous agricultural technologies. To the authors’ best knowledge, this is the first investigation into the public opinion of crop robots, based on a large sample representative of the German population in four socio-demographic variables. It indicates that the German population is most interested in the reduction of agrochemicals in plant production and will also accept autonomous agricultural technologies to achieve this goal. Policymakers should make use of these insights when communicating about novel technologies in agriculture and extension agents should relay this information to farmers, particularly those already interested in investing in crop robots.

Autonomous agriculture in public perception-German consumer segments' view of crop robots
Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 202
Olivia Spykman, Dr. Agnes Emberger-Klein , Dr. Andreas Gabriel, Dr. Markus Gandorfer
Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Spykman, Olivia; Emberger-Klein, Agnes; Gabriel, Andreas; Gandorfer, Markus (2022): Autonomous agriculture in public perception-German consumer segments' view of crop robots. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 202. DOI: 10.1016/j.compag.2022.107385