Robotics Firm Promises A 'Lights Out' Orchard
from the robofruit dept
The question "But who will pick our fruit?" is often heard during debates over unskilled immigration, as if that were somehow the crux of the issue. But a robotics company is looking to obviate this point by developing robots that can harvest orchards automatically without the need for direct human involvement. The company claims that while others have tried this in the past, it's developed a new efficient mechanism for efficiently finding and plucking fruit off trees. It's great when technology can bring efficiency and cost savings to business, and it would be great for farmers if they could avoid the precarious legal situation involved with hiring illegal immigrants (which many do in order to stay cost competitive). But there's good reason to be skeptical. Former GM CEO Roger Smith famously envisioned a "lights out" factory (so-called because a factory that employed only robots would have no need for lighting), but the vision never materialized under his watch. Undoubtedly, robotics has advanced in the nearly two decades since Smith was at the helm of GM, but as steady and consistent as factories are supposed to be, the world's top manufacturers haven't embraced this idea. There's probably room to make fruit picking more efficient, but at this point, completely getting rid of pickers sounds like a pipe dream.