Farmers trial robots as coronavirus outbreak cuts supply of seasonal workers – Latest News

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Farmers hope the tech will be rolled out and be fully operational for the 2021 picking season.

It is hoped the technology will be able to be used to fill worker shortages and pick soft fruit and vegetables, such as strawberries, lettuce and blueberries.

Robots could be used to fill the gap in workers not coming to the UK to pick fruit and vegetables during certain times of year due to the coronavirus outbreak and Brexit

Farmers have been trialing the new system amid labour shortages

The robots could be used to fill a labour shortage

It comes amid fears over the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit will lead to a drastic fall in the number of seasonal workers coming to UK farms.

Farmers are preparing to trial new robots this season as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has drastically seen a fall in the number of seasonal workers coming to the UK.

The effort to fill the gap in workers is being developed by the University of Lincoln, Agri-EPI Centre, the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Knowledge Transfer Network, which is also backed by more than 100 food producers.

He told Farming UK: “While approaches like ‘Pick for Britain’ seek to increase the availability of human labour, there is also an opportunity for the UK agri-food sector and technology providers to collaborate to accelerate the development and uptake of R&A technologies.

Prof Simon Pearson, who works on agri-food technology at The University of Lincoln, said it could spark “severe problems” in the labour market – most notably fruit and veg picking.

Some 80,000 workers are needed to fill demand every year, but due to coronavirus restriction, only 30% of that number are expected to come to the UK this season.

But, Ali Capper, chair of the NFU Horticulture and Potatoes Board, said it was a great move and was “long overdue”.

“We have some very good R&A experts in the UK who have been looking at solutions for some time. We want to get these to industry in a very short space of time.”

“This is a global challenge with many countries around the world facing seasonal labour difficulties.

She told the publication: “Growers have an on-going challenge around the availability, cost of and access to seasonal labour, exacerbated by Brexit and now Covid-19.

The development comes as a bar employed a robot waiter to serve and take orders during the pandemic.

“I commend the consortium for their energy in trying to accelerate the use of robotics in the fruit and veg sectors look forward to being part of the team that brings new robotic solutions forward to British farmers and growers.”

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