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4 September 2017 12:18:07 |Crops and Cereals,Machinery and Equipment,News,Produce,Products

Robotics in horticulture survey to help address labour concerns

The horticultural industry wants to explore future opportunities for automation

The horticultural industry wants to explore future opportunities for automation

A research survey that will establish the current level of use of automation and robotics in horticulture could help address concerns about labour availability and costs.
The work could also identify where future investment lies in such technologies, according to 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", according to AHDB.
A wide-ranging survey has thus been sent to growers from a full range of horticulture crops and selected businesses, and they will be 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 is designed to do and we hope that growers will be willing to spare some time to respond.”

Agri-tech contributes £14.4bn to the UK economy every year, underpinning the UK’s food and drink industry.
The government has invested £160 million through the agri-tech strategy to help develop innovative solutions from the laboratory through to the farm.
It comes as news that a report highlighted how 'smart farming' and technological advances can be embraced in order to support the growing human population.
Another separate report explained how agricultural robotics will become a $12bn industry by 2027.
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 will provide 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.”


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