I, Robot: Americans Get $7.5 Million for Robotic Strawberry Picking Research

By NEIL MUNRO

A group of Americans is getting $7.5 million from investors to help pick strawberries by using a multi-armed, electronic-eyed robot.

The investment will help field the first robots in Davis, California, said Marc Grossman, CEO of Advanced Farm Technologies. “With this investment, we can expand our lead in robotic strawberry harvesting and continue to innovate in other areas,” he told theRobotReport.com.

Picking ripe fruit is technologically challenging. But the progress is made economically possible because the federal government is not providing farm companies with all of the cheap labor they want, industry officials said. AgFunderNews.com reported:

The saving grace for robotics’ scale-related challenges, however, lies in its most powerful ally. Growers are plagued by labor shortages and searching for solutions that they can deploy today, not a few years down the road, says [investment manager Nolan] Paul.

Paul said:

Right now, there’s probably about eight startups going after the automated harvest of strawberries in different ways. Some of them are in Europe, some are here … Labor challenges are an existential problem for everyone. It’s freaking a lot of people out as something that needs to be solved in the next two to three years as the consequences to the industry will be significant.

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