Print this page
Wednesday, 14 August 2019 08:55

Man vs machine

Written by 
Professor David Hughes. Professor David Hughes.

Could robots soon replace humans in picking fruit? 

The top of hand versus robotic picking was raised by the speakers at the recent HortNZ conference.

Chief executive of Plant and Food Research, Professor David Hughes says handpicking works well for premium fruit, where consumers want to know more about the provenance of the product. And such consumers are also attracted by the ‘artisan’ nature of handpicking.

“Handpicking works really well for premium products and anything that bruises, such as strawberries, just-ripe peaches and tomatoes,” he explained. “Mechanical harvesting is fine for green tomatoes, but for the ripe red tomatoes hand picked is better.”

Professor Hughes says in the UK at least 50% of the total cost of strawberry production relates to labour. But retail prices have remained static over about ten years, which has pressured growers to reduce their costs. This is opening the way, as robotics get cheaper, for more mechanical harvesting.

“As my colleague (Dr) David says, some people are saying robotics are years away,” he told the conference.

“I think they are looking backwards rather than forwards. It has taken a long time to get to where we are, but I think you will see an accelerated growth and it will come sooner than we expect.” 

 

More like this

Trade will feed the world

Globalisation is the only way to feed 9.6 billion people by 2050 with a healthy diet on a healthy planet, says a global food expert.

Report shows value of ag chem

A landmark report reveals that without crop protection products, New Zealand’s economy would lose $7.5 to $11.4 billion.

High tech research for hort

A major research initiative in horticulture is underway in Bay of Plenty with the formation of the PlantTech Research Institute at Tauranga.

Consumers rule growers’ business

Consumers’ demands are driving the way Ohakune commercial vegetable growers Bruce and Stephanie Rollinson produce and package their Brussel sprouts and parsnips.