Survey to probe level of automation uptake in horticulture

Developments in automation have helped reduce growers' reliance on labour
Developments in automation have helped reduce growers' reliance on labour

A new survey has launched seeking to measure the level of uptake of automation and robotics within UK horticultural businesses over the last four years.

The survey, by AHDB Horticulture, also wants to understand what future opportunities there are for investment in new technology and innovation to support the sector.

Results from 2017, when the survey was originally conducted, showed over 82% believed developments in automation had helped reduce their reliance on labour.

The majority of UK growers surveyed also hoped technological investment would focus on developing robotics for harvesting.

Access to affordable labour continues to be the number one challenge for horticulture businesses, exacerbated most recently by coronavirus restrictions.

AHDB's Horticulture Labour Barometer provided real time information on labour requirements from May to September in 2020.

The report showed 23% of horticulture businesses were unable to recruit sufficient labour to meet their productivity targets.

And 100 percent of businesses experienced additional costs linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Debbie Wilson, Head of Knowledge Exchange at AHDB said: “The pain point for most seasonal horticultural businesses is securing enough labour for the peak harvesting periods.

"Which is why we weren’t surprised most businesses were hoping to find a robotic solution for harvesting in the last survey."

The survey has now launched and will be conducted through a series of in-depth telephone interviews and an online questionnaire.

The online questionnaire closes midnight 31 March 2021 and the results will be made public later in the spring.