Shortage of Ag Workers Leads to More Interest in Farm Robotics

Financial Times writer Emiko Terazono reported recently that, “The coronavirus pandemic and a shortage of agricultural workers has led to a spike in interest and investment in farm robotics and automation.

“‘We have seen an enormous increase in interest and orders,’ said Pål Johan From, chief executive of Norway’s Saga Robotics.

“Saga has received about 40 orders from UK farmers for its Thorvald robot, which transports crates of produce, weeds and harvests strawberries while also killing mildew with its Ultraviolet light. The UV technology’s ability to kill viruses has also come into focus, and the company has just raised NKr100m ($11m) for further R&D.”

The FT article noted that, “Year-to-date funding of start-ups in the farm robotics and automation sector, including vertical and indoor farms, has jumped 40 per cent, according to Dealroom, which provides data on start-ups and high-growth companies.

“Concerns about labour shortages and farming are not new — the UK was hit by a sharp fall in workers from eastern Europe arriving since the Brexit vote, while California and other key producing regions in the US have been struggling with labour shortages for years.

“However, the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, with fields of fruits and vegetables left unharvested as many workers have been unable to cross borders while others have been struck down by the virus.”

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