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Fields of the future: Putting technology to work 

It may be hard to picture a robot harvesting strawberries rather than field workers picking by hand.  But that’s one of ways powerful technology can potentially help Florida growers address workforce shortages – and it’s coming. 

Technology advances and how they will affect specialty crop agriculture was the focus of one of the Issues Forums at FFVA’s annual convention. 

“We need to look at innovative solutions for our farms,” said Jamie Williams, Lipman Family Farms, who introduced FFVA’s convention issues forum, "Fields of the Future: Putting Technology to Work."

Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Wish Farms in Plant City, outlined an innovative collaborative technology project dubbed Harvest Croo Robotics, which is designed to address labor shortages in the fields. Changing demographics will exacerbate the existing workforce shortage, Wishnatzki predicted.

“Unlike commodity crops, strawberry harvesting hasn’t changed in 150 years,” he said. “But we are facing a global demographic issue. It takes young people to pick strawberries, and our workforce is aging. In addition, birth rates in Mexico are shrinking and at some point that nation will become a net importer or farm labor.”