Specialty crop growers spend up to half a million dollars each year on automation in an attempt to cope with labor shortages, according to a new report.

Western Growers has released its second annual Specialty Crop Automation Report, which tracks efforts to automate crop production and harvest.

Based on surveys, growers reported spending between $450,000 and $500,000 on automation, up by roughly 25 percent from the year before, according to the report.

The 128-page report also includes the following highlights:

—Most progress toward automation came in the weeding and harvest-assist areas, while growers said return-on-investment for weeding solutions was less than two years.

—Growers want more tech-savvy workers. Half of growers said they had employees who dedicated most of their time to integrating automation technology.

—Development of automation tools is getting quicker and less expensive with advances in robotics and an increasing talent pool. 

To read the report, visit: go.wga.com/2022-harvest-report.

by Ross Courtney