Western Growers 2022 Specialty Crop Automation Report cover image

Apr 27, 2023
Grower spending on automation jumps to $500K

Growers are spending an average of $500,000 a year on automation in response to the persistent ag labor shortage, according to the Specialty Crop Automation Report from Western Growers.

This is the second year the Specialty Crop Automation Report has been commissioned by Western Growers in collaboration with consultants at Roland Berger. The report, which tracks and measures industry progress in harvest automation across the fresh produce industry, is part of the organization’s Global Harvest Automation Initiative, which aims to accelerate ag automation by 50% in 10 years.

Western Growers 2022 Specialty Crop Automation Report

“This year’s report takes a deep dive into some new areas: The European market, controlled environment agriculture, and the innovator’s side of automation,” Walt Duflock, vice president of Innovation at Western Growers, said in a news release. “We found progress from a fundraising and traction perspective in key areas like weeding, spraying and harvest assist — and less progress in other key areas, notably harvest.

Automation report findings

Investment climbs

Around 70% of participating growers indicated that they had invested in automation in 2022, with an average annual spend of $450,000-$500,000 per grower. This shows a considerable increase since last year when average investments in automation were around $350,000 to $400,000 per grower per year.

Weeding, harvest assist progress

Most progress was made in the weeding and harvest assist segments; market-ready solutions are able to meet grower economic targets and alleviate key challenges, such as lack of labor availability. Growers reported returns on investments for weeding solutions of less than one to two years depending on the type of crop and technology used.

Training critical

Growers want more trained agtech personnel, with 50% indicating that they had internal employees who dedicated the majority of their time to the integration of automation investments. This suggests that the process of elevating and upskilling the agriculture workforce is well underway.

Progress benefits ag tech

The time it takes to build automation solutions is getting shorter and the costs are getting smaller thanks to overall advances in robotics and non-agriculture fields that benefit ag tech startups, as well as the increasing talent pool that ag tech startups are able to add to their teams.

The Specialty Crop Automation Report is available for download.

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