Growers are keen to adopt automation to bridge the growing labor gap and ensure that their crops can be picked in time, according to the Global Harvest Automation Report, a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Western Growers. The report is the first in a new annual series that will track, measure and report on industry progress in harvest automation across the fresh produce industry.
The Global Harvest Automation Report is part of WG’s Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which aims to accelerate ag automation by 50 percent in 10 years.
“One of the main aims of the report was to take a comprehensive look at the entire harvest ecosystem and provide a quantitative look to the Western Growers membership at how much harvest innovation is impacting their operations across fresh products for specialty crops, where the most progress is occurring, and why,” says WG VP of Innovation Walt Duflock. “Second, we wanted to provide an in-depth view of the innovators who are doing the heavy lifting by crop type, so growers would know who to contact based on the crops they grow.”
Among the findings of the report, which was prepared in collaboration with consultants at Roland Berger:
- 65 percent of participating growers have invested in automation over the past three years
- The average annual spend on automation was $350,000-$400,000 per grower
- Spending occurred in pre-harvest and harvest assist activities, including weeding, thinning, harvesting platforms and autonomous ground vehicles. It is anticipated that 30-60 percent of these activities will be automated by 2025.
- Harvest automation itself remains limited because of the technical difficulties in replicating the human hand to harvest delicate crops. It is anticipated that 20 percent of harvest activities will be automated by 2025.
Full print copies of the Global Harvest Automation Report will be available at the Western Growers booth at the World Ag Expo Feb. 8-10, 2022 in Tulare, Calif.; to download a complete digital copy please click here.