As California’s labor shortage grows, farmers race to replace workers with robots

A machine lays down a strip of Romaine lettuce seedlings in a field near Salinas, Calif., where growers are shifting to mechanization and robotics to solve a persistent labor shortage.

By Geoffrey Mohan | Los Angeles Times

Driscoll’s is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won’t let photographers within telephoto range of it.

But if you do get a peek, you won’t see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO — a boxy contraption moving in fits and starts, with its computer-driven sensors, graspers and cutters missing 1 in 3 berries.

Such has been the progress of ag-tech in California, where despite the adoption of drones, iPhone apps and satellite-driven sensors, the hand and knife still harvest the bulk of more than 200 crops.

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