Following 2021’s inaugural Global Harvest Automation Report, the market for specialty crop automation solutions has advanced. It has become apparent that relevant automation solutions for specialty crop growers expand beyond harvest technologies. Other automation solutions that enable savings and can serve to complement labor, such as weeding, thinning, planting and spraying, are as important to overcoming the most prominent challenges facing growers. Thus, from this edition onwards, the report will be rebranded to the “specialty crop automation report.” Next to the title change, this year’s report differs from last year in that its scope has been extended to include both the U.S. and Europe. Future reports will further expand the global coverage, with Australia and New Zealand likely contenders for next year’s edition. The objectives of last year’s report are largely retained, however, they are (1) to highlight the main challenges and trends in the agriculture industry; (2) to provide increased transparency on the status and impact of automation in the fresh produce market; and (3) to identify and highlight technology innovation leaders across different activities. Readers can consult last year’s report for further details.

The report is structured around four main chapters. Chapter 3 highlights the main challenges facing the agriculture market and focuses on two key trends, namely controlled environment agriculture (CEA) and uptake of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program in the U.S. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the agriculture and specialty crop industry in Europe and highlights its main challenges, drawing parallels to the U.S. where relevant. Building on last year’s established baselines, Chapter 5 summarizes the main findings of the impact analysis, with a general automation status report across all specialty crops and a more detailed status and impact assessment for a selection of specialty crops. Data was gathered through dedicated interviews and by surveying grower members of Western Growers and associated partner organizations. Chapter 6 summarizes the main findings of the market traction analysis, identifying innovation leaders in terms of total funding raised, number of paying customers and number of robots in service. Data for this analysis was gathered through dedicated interviews and by surveying global harvest automation start-ups active in the fresh produce industry. Lastly, Chapter 7 provides overall conclusions and considerations for future reports.

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