In this episode our hosts discuss how technology is being created to fill a human labor gap due to a change in demographics, politics and rising expectations from a more prosperous citizenry. Robots are now sufficiently advanced to manage the picking of berries, previously only harvestable by hand.
The UN estimates that the worldwide percentage of young people is on the decline and will drop by about 4% by 2040. As harvesting is physically difficult work typically done by younger people, this does not bode well. Additionally, many countries that historically have provided seasonal labourers are experiencing stronger economic growth which is impacting migration patterns and creating a shortage of workers.
Innovative robotic solutions are helping to close the gap between available labor and food demand. Focusing on “conservation of motion” robotics, this harvester requires only 8 seconds to pick all the ripe berries from a strawberry plant. Moving to the next row of plants in just 1.5 seconds, it can cover 8 acres in a single day - the equivalent of having 30 human pickers do the work.
Rory Aronson is the creator of FarmBot, an open-source precision farming machine and software suite designed for small scale automated food production. In his fascinating TEDx UCLA talk he adds to this Future Lens podcast conversation by proposing that a scalable, modular and low cost farming solution is not just desirable, but a necessity for meeting the world’s future food needs.