The debate over which brand of harvester machinery is better than which other brands have been going on for years. However, there is a new debate now, robotic harvesters or manual harvesters machinery. While there has been some solid progression in what robots are capable of being able to achieve, have they come far enough to be able to reliably replace us by ensuring that only the correct and ripe produce is picked?
Though the answer to that question may differ depending on when you ask it, as each year there seem to be great improvements made within the robotic fields. However, at the current stage, they are still behind what a human can do. While they do have the capability to work longer hours, if a robotic harvester machine does encounter an error or fault, the progress will be halted until a person can come in and fix the error. Unless the farm is willing to man the machine over a 24hr period, this will mean that the error will continue to be waited to get fixed until the next day when people have returned for their shifts. Thus rendering their main advantage redundant.
That isn’t to say that they are entirely useless, but it will be a few more years to wait before we will begin to see some real advancements in being able to run without any human overwatch. Although like with advancements being made to robotics, there have also been some great steps forward to manual picking capabilities, whether that is in the equipment being used, with the actual harvester machinery or the tools that can be used on said machinery to save time and energy for the operators. As a number of harvesters are now able to have multiple people work them at the same time, allowing not only 2 rows to be picked simultaneously, but also being able to remove the need for a ladder that needs to be manually placed. Therefore giving access to the highest points of the plants to be picked at the same time as the ground level.
Another benefit of using people over robotics is that we are able to visually see any bruises or damage to the produce, which can only be done with a very limited ability by robotics. Being able to identify a bad piece of produce early in the process will ensure more efficient and productive workflow, and mean less time spent going overproduce that should or should not be there.
Although in the future the progression of robotics may cause us to look at their use differently, as it currently stands, while they may offer greater hours of service, they are still needed to be operated and watched over by people. And until a time that we can be beaten at our own game, a person will have a vast advantage at being able to identify and pick the correct product in a timely manner.