The Global Harvest Automation Report has officially been released highlighting progress and challenges in the sector. Commissioned by Western Growers, the report is the first of its kind and will be annual series detailing harvest automation growth and opportunities. The report is part of Western Growers’ larger effort to accelerate automation in agriculture, the Global Harvest Automation Initiative.
“Labor is still one of the biggest challenges and harvest is still one of the biggest users of labor. So, what we wanted to do was release a one-year look at how we’re doing with harvest automation,” said Walt Duflock, VP of Innovation for Western Growers. “Not in terms of fundraising for startups and all kinds of valuations, but in terms of how we are actually doing with all the harvest robot startups that are out there and what do we need to do to make it move faster.”
Growers as well as startup companies were surveyed and provided insight in the report. Consultants with Roland Berger helped compile the findings in the report that indicated that 65 percent of growers surveyed have invested in automation in the past three years. “The growers tell us that two-thirds of them have spent over $350,000 on automation the last couple years. That’s a lot of capital,” said Duflock.
Progress is being made in the areas of pre-harvest and harvest-assist equipment, including weeders, thinners, and autonomous ground vehicles. There is significant interest from both farmers and startup companies in further development of harvest automation offerings, but the process has been slow going. Approximately 75 percent of harvest startups remain in the early stages of funding. “The same three-quarters have basically less than five customers and less than five robots in service. So, it’s fair to say it’s a very early game in spite of all the capital that’s been put into it,” Duflock noted.
The Global Harvest Automation Report will serve as a component of the overall mission to expedite research and development. A complete digital copy of the report is available for download.