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As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans

Melanie Wong | Nov 25, 201809:18 PM

" . . . California’s $54 billion agricultural industry cannot afford to wait. As the country’s epicenter of both technology and agriculture, the state is leading the move to automate in the fields and packing plants.

Driscoll’s, the berry titan based in Watsonville, Calif., has invested in several robotic strawberry harvesting start-ups, including Agrobot, which uses imaging technology to assess a berry’s ripeness before it is harvested. It is currently in test phase.

Last spring, Christopher Ranch, a giant in garlic, began using a 30-foot-tall robot to insert garlic buds into sleeves, the nets into which they are bundled for sale in supermarkets. . .

At several stations, a pair of robots with yellow arms that end with a round suction head gripped five-pound packages of shredded lettuce, one by one, and placed them into boxes moving on a belt. Nearby, larger robots did the backbreaking, repetitive work of lifting and stacking filled-up cartons.

Maria Guadalupe, 43, a recent graduate of the company-sponsored technology course, has gone from packing bagged salads into boxes to setting up and monitoring robots that do her old job. 'This is much better work,' she said above the din of the production floor. . ."

As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans

Farms are struggling with a shrinking, aging labor force and a crackdown on immigration. Robots are both replacing humans and attracting young workers...

www.nytimes.com
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