workforce transformation, whereby farmworkers will need to be trained for new skills and capabilities to handle new automation technologies. Western Growers’ Next Gen Ag Worker program plays well into this trend and builds the foundations to prepare graduates to handle new equipment and rethink traditional growing operations. Optimistically, notable progress has been made in the commercialization of harvest automation technologies. When comparing year-on-year survey data, automation start-ups have generally made progress with respect to funding, machines in the field and paying customers. Indeed, around 75 percent of start-ups who have responded to both the 2021 and 2022 surveys made progress with respect to total funding raised and machines in the field. This indicates that automation technologies will continue to be increasingly available to lighten the burden of growers’ labor challenges. However, collaboration between all stakeholders in the ecosystem including growers, innovators, investors, and governments will be vital for continued progress. Once again, working with Western Growers, including its staff and members, has been a pleasure. The publication of this second report would not be possible without inputs from growers to understand their challenges and needs, and inputs from various start- ups to understand the challenges they are trying to solve and the challenges that they face in doing so.
Furthermore, we are truly grateful for the support of our key content partners Architecture and Mixing Bowl, who helped us crack some tough nuts on Controlled Environment Agriculture and the automation start-up landscape, and we would like to thank our sponsor and partner, Michelin. Furthermore, the competence and passion of Western Growers’ staff has been a joy to work with. Working with an organization so dedicated to connecting all stakeholders within the specialty crop industry, well beyond its state and national boundaries, and supporting growers has been motivating. And we look forward to seeing the benefits their hard work will reap for the specialty crop industry.
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