Exploring future opportunities for automation in horticulture
A research survey that reviews the current level of use of automation and robotics in horticulture and identifies where future investment in technologies can be made to help address concerns about labour availability and costs, has been published by AHDB Horticulture.
Labour accounts for up to 70% of variable production costs in some areas of horticulture. With the National Living Wage driving up labour costs and the uncertainty of the future availability of migrant workers after Brexit, identifying technologies that can help reduce labour costs and pressures for businesses will become more critical.
A wide-ranging survey was sent to growers from a full range of horticulture crops and selected businesses were contacted for in-depth studies.
Debbie Wilson, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB, said: “We recognise the significance of labour costs for horticultural businesses and therefore the importance of doing things that help growers reduce them.
“Fundamental to getting these activities right is having the full picture of what the current position is in our industry which is what this survey was designed to do.”
Steve Tones, horticulture strategy director at AHDB, said: “Addressing the increasing cost and decreasing availability of labour is one of the top three priorities of our strategy, and a key issue for most growers.
“We recently launched a programme to bring lean principles into all sectors of horticulture, which offers immediate improvements in business productivity. The robotics and automation survey has provided us with the information we need to shape our future activity to meet the longer-term needs of the horticulture industry for alternatives to human labour.”
You can read the full survey report here.