2022 SPECIALTY CROP AUTOMATION REPORT
1.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
A growing labor shortage and rising wages are a source of increasing concern for the global agriculture industry. Growers indicate that labor typically accounts for more than 50 percent of their total production costs, and most expect labor costs to grow at 10-30 percent over the next three to five years. The hope is that technologies can bring solutions and provide relief for the industry. This report provides an overview of promising automation solutions that work for growers and deliver quality economics today and in the future. This report is the second in an annual series that will track, measure and report on industry progress in automation across the fresh produce industry. The report is a unique combination of information gathered via public sources (U.S. Department of Agriculture; California Department of Food and Agriculture; University of California, Davis; Food and Agriculture Organization; Eurostat etc.), dedicated interviews with industry experts (growers, start-ups, investors etc.), and through close collaboration with strategic partners (Agritecture and The Mixing Bowl). This research is complemented by insights from two sets of surveys: one directed at specialty crop growers and one at start-ups. The report provides a comprehensive view of the current status and impact of harvest automation and highlights innovation leaders. This edition
also has a special focus on the European agriculture industry and looks at five selected crops in particular: apples, strawberries, broccoli, lettuce and grapes. Primarily, the study finds clear signs of progress compared to last year’s inaugural report. Around 70 percent of participating growers indicated that they had invested in automation in 2022, with an average annual spend of $450,000-$500,000 per grower. This shows considerable progress since last year when average investments in automation were around $350,000 to $400,000 per grower per year. Most progress was made in the weeding and harvest assist segments, as market-ready solutions are able to meet grower economic targets and alleviate key challenges, such as lack of labor availability. Indeed, growers reported ROIs for weeding solutions of less than one to two years depending on the type of crop and technology used. These workable solutions add to the optimism of growers and the industry in general. In addition, growers want more trained agtech personnel, with 50 percent indicating that they had internal employees who dedicated the majority of their time to the integration of automation investments. This suggests that the process of elevating and upskilling the agriculture workforce is well underway.
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