News Los Angeles Times: AgTech in the Salinas Valley brings new life (and hope) to California’s farms

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Companies from Salinas and the surrounding region are using technology and robotic machines to tackle the labor shortage problem that faces the agriculture industry, the Los Angeles Times reported last week.

Reporter Geoffrey Mohan explores how major growers in the Salinas area like Driscoll’s, Tanimura & Antle and Taylor Farms are developing high-tech machines that can replace jobs that they are no longer able to fill with humans. For example, Tanimura & Antle’s PlantTape technology lays down seedlings twice as fast and with three times fewer laborers than a traditional harvesting machine. Driscoll’s has developed a robotic berry picker called the AgroBot that uses coordinates set by a camera and computer to grasp the fruit. Taylor Farms automatically harvests lettuce using high-speed water jets to slice the heads off lettuce stalks. The “See and Spray” machine from Blue River Technology uses fertilizer-infused water to desiccate seedlings.

“Now, the $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.”

Technologies like these are critical for the agriculture industry, Mohan writes, as there simply aren’t enough workers for California’s half-million farm labor jobs. Advances in agtech are creating more high-skilled, higher-wage jobs, and are enabling growers to produce and harvest more food more efficiently.