Robotic strawberry harvest is promising but will need improved technology and higher wages to be economically viable
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.3733/ca2021a0009
While the prospect of robotic harvest in strawberry production has received much attention within the strawberry industry and the popular press, there is little available information on the economic feasibility of this technology. It is not clear how close the industry is to being able to profitably adopt robotic harvest systems; also unclear is the relative importance of wage rates, robotic harvest efficiencies and machinery field speeds on the adoption threshold. This study aims to clarify these issues by estimating the net income to strawberry production under robotic harvest scenarios, and comparing the values to standard enterprise budgets for strawberry production in California under different wage rates for harvest labor. Results confirm that robotic harvest remains economically unviable under current wage rates and the field speeds and harvest efficiencies achieved by leading robotic harvest development teams. However, results indicate that with expected increases in wage rates in the coming years, and with modest improvements in the technical parameters, use of robotic systems will likely become profitable in some form.