Executive Briefings

As Labor Shortage Grows, Farmers Race to Replace Workers With Robots

Driscoll's is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won't let photographers within telephoto range of it.

As Labor Shortage Grows, Farmers Race to Replace Workers With Robots

But if you do get a peek, you won't see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO - a boxy contraption moving in fits and starts, with its computer-driven sensors, graspers and cutters missing 1 in 3 berries.

Such has been the progress of ag-tech in California, where despite the adoption of drones, iPhone apps and satellite-driven sensors, the hand and knife still harvest the bulk of more than 200 crops.

Now, the $47bn agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

“California agriculture just isn’t going to look the same,” said Ed Taylor, a UC Davis rural economist. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find crops grown as labor-intensively as they are now.”

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But if you do get a peek, you won't see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO - a boxy contraption moving in fits and starts, with its computer-driven sensors, graspers and cutters missing 1 in 3 berries.

Such has been the progress of ag-tech in California, where despite the adoption of drones, iPhone apps and satellite-driven sensors, the hand and knife still harvest the bulk of more than 200 crops.

Now, the $47bn agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

“California agriculture just isn’t going to look the same,” said Ed Taylor, a UC Davis rural economist. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find crops grown as labor-intensively as they are now.”

Read Full Article

As Labor Shortage Grows, Farmers Race to Replace Workers With Robots