2018 Winter - Is Agriculture Ready for Autonomy?

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FPJ1502E - Wiseman, L, Cockburn, T & Sanderson, J (2018), Legal Consequences of Autonomous Farming

FPJ1502E - Wiseman, L, Cockburn, T & Sanderson, J (2018), Legal Consequences of Autonomous Farming, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, Winter 2012, pp. 37-46, Surry Hills, Australia.

With the increasing world population placing greater and greater pressure on food production, the issue of food security is high on the world agenda. In the search for strategies to address this looming crisis, attention is being drawn to the power of new digital and autonomous technologies to increase agricultural productivity. As Revich has noted, ‘the next leg of food production growth will come from greater precision in agriculture, with advances in hardware, software and computing power converging with technologies like self-driving tractors and drones to help farmers feed humanity’s next century.’
The aim of this paper is to do just that: to highlight the potential legal consequences of the introduction of autonomous machines and technologies into Australian agriculture. As autonomous and robotic equipment use increases so too will the rate of incidents or accidents involving such autonomous and robotic equipment.
We will focus on the potential legal issues that may arise where an autonomous farming machinery causes an incident or accident that results in legal action for compensation for personal injury and/or property damage and discuss how the current laws in Australia are likely to respond. Legal issues relating to potential criminal liability; workers compensation and specifically the CASA regulations around the use of drones claims are beyond the scope of this paper. However, as is happening in other countries, we argue it is time for a review of the current schemes of compensation available for loss or injuries caused by autonomous farm machinery, keeping in mind those who are using these technologies are ultimately contributing to a food secure future.

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