It’s about Food Security
We want to keep affordable fresh fruits and vegetables on the kitchen table. Shifting societal demographics coupled with downward immigration trends, have put a major strain on the global agriculture industry. There are not enough people to harvest the food we have come to expect in our grocery stores. Our robotic solution closes the increasing gap between available labor and food demand. Harvest CROO Robotics holds the key to a sustainable food future that will benefit farmers and consumers of fresh produce.
How big is the problem?
Strawberry harvesting is physically difficult, so it is typically done by younger people. The UN estimates that the worldwide percentage of young people (those below the age of 15) in the world will decline from 27% to less than 22% in 2040 and less than 18% in 2100.
Closer to home in the US, Mexican migrant workers have harvested our fruits and vegetables for decades. Through the 1960s and into the 1970s, labor was unburdened and abundant. Since then, Mexico’s population has aged and, more importantly, Mexico’s economic opportunities have increased. The net effect – the US actually lost 1.1 million Mexican migrants between 2007 and 2014 (The Pew Research Center). If automated harvesting solutions are not found, the declining agriculture labor force will become a full-blown crisis in the United States.
What is the impact?
Strawberries as a Luxury Good
In the late 1960’s and early 1970s, early season strawberries on the streets of New York were as high as $25 per pound (in 2018 dollars). Today those same prices are $2. If we don’t solve the harvesting problem, pricing and supply will have to change to meet these new realities. The days of $25 per pound strawberries will return.
What does it mean?
It’s About Fresh and Nutritious Food Security
The USDA recommends 5 cups of fruits and vegetables for a 2,400-calorie diet. Fresh strawberries will not be available for most people if the price drastically increases. Similar pricing challenges will be found across all fresh fruits and vegetables, and we will be forced to rely on imports of frozen, canned or juiced product. This is not the best way to take care of ourselves and our children.
Why Harvest CROO Robotics?
We Are Disruptive Without Disrupting
We will provide harvesting services that mimic human pickers, without changing how the farmer grows their crops.
Almost all strawberries sold in the US are grown in the ground, and it is more cost effective to do so. In order to supply fresh strawberries to the market, we need to build upon current farming practices. We will disrupt the harvest service, without disrupting the strawberry farming market. We can do that by building a harvester that works on today’s farms without making the farmer invest in more expensive growing systems (like table top or vertical farms). Additionally, the farmer can be the farmer, not a high-tech worker.
- Works with current grower practices
- Reduces uncertainty in acquiring and maintaining harvest capabilities
- Yields cost savings
- Reduces labor issues
- Strengthens food safety and quality controls
We are focused on “Conservation of Motion” robotics, meaning we optimize the individual tasks that a harvester accomplishes. We don’t use a single robotic arm to accomplish the picking of strawberries; instead we use multiple robotic components to separate the picking functions of leaf gathering, visual inspection, picking and then packing. This allows us to build simpler robots, which run faster and operate at the scale needed to support current farm operations.