Out of Control Policy Blog

War Against the Machines--Robot Farmer Edition

If illegal immigrants aren't allowed to do certain jobs then employers will raise wages and hire American citizens, right?

Maybe employers will hire robots instead:

    With authorities promising tighter borders, some farmers who rely on immigrant labor are eyeing an emerging generation of fruit-picking robots and high-tech tractors to do everything from pluck premium wine grapes to clean and core lettuce.

    Such machines, now in various stages of development, could become essential for harvesting delicate fruits and vegetables that are still picked by hand.

    ...

    Mechanized picking wouldn't be new for some California crops such as canning tomatoes, low-grade wine grapes and nuts.

    But the fresh produce that dominates the state's agricultural output and that consumers expect to find unblemished in supermarkets is too fragile to be picked by the machines now in use.

    The new pickers rely on advances in computing power and hydraulics that can make robotic limbs and digits operate with near-human sensitivity. Modern imaging technology also enables the machines to recognize and sort fruits and vegetables of varying qualities.

    "The technology is maturing just at the right time to allow us to do this kind of work economically," said Derek Morikawa, whose San Diego-based Vision Robotics has been working with the California Citrus Research Board and Washington State Apple Commission to develop a fruit picker.

Article here.

Related: Alex Tabarrok explores similar themes here; How soulless "workers" might take jobs from miners, fighter pilots , surgeons, and prostitutes.

Still waiting for Lou Dobbs to take on those job-stealing, wage-depressing robots.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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