Labor specialist expects technology to complement shortages

An ag labor researcher is studying how growers are dealing with ag worker shortages.

Zach Rutledge with Michigan State University tells Brownfield specialty crop prices are not keeping pace with rising labor costs and farmers want access to more tech-driven solutions.

“What I think moving forward we’ll see is these technologies that are complementing the workers rather than just completely replacing them,” he says.  “I would expect to see more of that being adopted in the short to medium term.”

Examples he says include simple automations like platforms to lift workers in orchards or electronically controlled harvest carts.

“UC-Davis is developing some carts that are automated and driven by GPS for strawberry fields,” he shares.  “They go into the middle of the field and pick up the tray instead of having the worker walk to the end of the row.”

Rutledge says unfortunately mechanical technologies are not widely available for most producers.

Brownfield interviewed Rutledge during the recent Michigan Ag Credit Conference.

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