Driscoll’s is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won’t let photographers within telephoto range of it.
But if you do get a peek, you won’t see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO — a boxy contraption moving in fits and starts, with its computer-driven sensors, graspers and cutters missing 1 in 3 berries.
Such has been the progress of ag-tech in California, where despite the adoption of drones, iPhone apps and satellite-driven sensors, the hand and knife still harvest the bulk of more than 200 crops.
Now, the $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.
California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.