2022 SPECIALTY CROP AUTOMATION REPORT
The second version of the automation report provides an update of the status and impact of automation in the specialty crop industry, considering the established baseline during last year’s inaugural report. Further- more, it highlights recurring and new innovation leaders in the space across different activity segments. Driven by market dynamics, it became apparent that automa- tion solutions reach beyond harvesting only, therefore it was decided to rebrand the report to “2022 Specialty Crop Automation Report”. The GHAI report will similarly look at the entire portfolio and help growers manage to optimize it with the right mix of labor and automation for their operation. This final chapter summarizes the principal findings of the study, key accomplishments and strategic priorities of Western Growers to acceler- ate harvest automation adoption and key considerations for next report versions. Automation solutions are gaining traction in the specialty crop market. Weeding and harvest assist robots are in market and have been gaining ground in 2022 driven by the achievement of cost-effective solutions that deliver quality economics for growers today. While lack of labor availability and rising labor costs continue to be a key challenge for specialty crop grow- ers, the first signs of workable and viable technology solutions have made their way to the specialty crop market in 2022. First, average investments in automation have increased from $350,000 per grower in 2019 to $500,000 per grower in 2022. Second, growers have indicated clear economic savings from automated weeding and harvest assist solutions. Third, growers are starting to hire dedicated personnel handling automation and agtech solutions, indicating increased belief in the upcoming technologies.
15 percent of participating start-ups (in the 2022 survey) have completed Round B funding or above, compared to 7 percent in the 2021 survey. More than 30 percent of start-ups have reached more than 20 paying customers, compared to 20 percent last year. In addition, more than 35 percent of participating start-ups have reached more than 10 robots in service, compared to 20 percent in 2021. In line with findings from the impact analysis, most progress has been made in the weeding segment, with various start-ups gaining traction as they meet grower economic targets. FarmWise, Verdant, Stout AgTech, Carbon Robotics and Naïo Technologies are considered technology leaders in the weeding space. Western Growers continues to be committed to accelerate automation across the fresh produce industry and play a central role to connect indus- try stakeholders During 2022, Western Growers has been able to live up to its promises and has achieved a set of accomplishments:
1. Drive collaboration across agriculture industry stakeholders
In collaboration with the GHAI, GOFAR and UC ANR, Western Growers launched FIRA USA in October 2022 in Fresno, Calif. The conference brought different stakeholders together, including growers, universities, start-ups and grower associations, and featured panels, keynotes and field demonstrations. The event enables different players to see automation technologies in real life and helps growers to get acquainted with new solutions. Following the successful first launch, FIRA USA will be held again in September 2023 in California to provide growers and startups the opportunity to build on previous conversations and discover new agtech opportunities.
The market traction analysis of automation start-ups confirms the progress in the market. Approximately
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