Technology in agriculture (ag-tech) is how we'll feed a growing population, make farming more sustainable, and improve the lives of farm animals, say 85% of the 3,000 participants in Cargill's new three-continent consumer survey. At the same time, only about half of those surveyed want their food to come from a technologically advanced (versus traditional) farm. Industries like medicine and education are where respondents most want to see technology used. Farming ranks third—above defense, manufacturing, retail, and food.

In its quarterly Feed4Thought survey, Cargill found markedly different perceptions of ag-tech across the three surveyed countries. South Korea was the most positive about high-tech farms—both as a source of food (70% pro) and for their potential to make farming more sustainable (95% pro). France was the most apprehensive—with only 37% wanting their food to come from a technologically advanced farm. France and the United States thought farmers should benefit most when ag-tech improves operations; South Korea chose consumers. When it comes to tech investments, South Korean and American consumers agreed the top priority should be that it “increases food safety,” while French participants said technology should first and foremost “improve animal well-being.”

Of those surveyed, 42% said they’d welcome the use of sensors on the farms that grow their food, while 35% would be okay with artificial intelligence. Devices that affix to an animal, such as “Fitbits for cows” and robotic or automated labor (e.g., robotic milkers) were acceptable to 29% of respondents. A quarter of respondents said they were comfortable with farmers breeding animals based on genetic markers for desirable traits. Only 18% would embrace feed containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Younger French and American participants (aged 18–34) were slightly more likely than their older counterparts (aged 55+) to accept GM feed. None of these innovations earned above a 50% approval rating, which correlates to respondents naming “consumers desire traditional products” as a top barrier to farmers adopting tech—second only to farm economics.

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