A robotic arm lifts plants being grown at Iron Ox, a robotic indoor farm, in San Carlos, California. Science and technology will be at the core of the agricultural industry of the future, but too few graduates have the skills employers need. Eric Risberg/The Associated Press
A robotic arm lifts plants being grown at Iron Ox, a robotic indoor farm, in San Carlos, California. Science and technology will be at the core of the agricultural industry of the future, but too few graduates have the skills employers need. Eric Risberg/The Associated Press

Robots with fingers designed to pick mature tomatoes, among the most delicate of crops. A Fitbit-like collar that monitors the wellbeing of a cow. Drones with sensors to identify dry areas of a field or discover crop production inefficiencies...

Eventually robots will take over the fieldwork that’s typically the domain of migrant workers, and someone will need to control the machines, said Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, professor emeritus at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at University of California-Davis and founding director of the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science.

She and others say the next generation of farm labor and agriculture workers will require more advanced skills. Today’s farm laborers will control the robots that will need round-the-clock maintenance. Meanwhile, through 4-H youth development programs delivered locally through University of California Cooperative Extension Offices, laborers’ children will be encouraged to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) paths in agriculture, de Leon Siantz said...

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