From sprawling fruit and vegetable farms to crowded chicken coops, the basic food industry is in crisis due to lack of workers.
Robots, including Blacki’s Landshark and Arm, are among the answers to the problem.
From sprawling fruit and vegetable farms to crowded chicken coops, the basic food industry is in crisis due to lack of workers.
Robots, including Blacki’s Landshark and Arm, are among the answers to the problem.

FOOD CHAIN

There just aren’t enough laborers to work the seasonal fields of America’s farms. And no one is beating down doors to pick up chicken carcasses. The food chain is in crisis, and from America’s breadbasket of California to the chicken coops of Georgia, answers are being sought.

We have had fruitful negotiations with a number of organizations involved in the food chain, where mechanization has been used for generations but robots are only now being introduced.

We are in discussions with Georgia Tech’s Research Institute, for example, which has been funded to solve the problem of what to do with dead chickens.

Many chickens die before they are ever killed for food. This presents serious health and environmental hazards, since few workers are beating down doors to pick up chicken carcasses, A single coop can hold 40,000 chickens. And there are thousands of coops, with more than 24 million chickens killed for food each day in the US alone.

Our discussions with Georgia Tech involve the feasibility of using our robots, equipped with an arm, to pick up carcasses and deposit them at a central point for disposal. As part of the solution, we are working with an environmental firm in the UK to put sensors on our robots and transmit data that can be used to monitor and resolve the serious environmental challenge. We expect these discussions to result in a prototype program.

In California and in farms throughout the country, more than half the farmers say they have not been able to hire enough farm hands. That means the farmers have had to retrench, or pay rates that make the farms unprofitable. These same farmers are looking to robots and other technologies to help solve the issue.

Blacki is considering adapting our Landshark chassis to the needs of farmers, which would involve helping seed the fields, towing trailers and, with our arm, lifting cases of produce and bringing them to a central consolidation point and on to refrigeration units. A second application would be to pick fruits when ripe. This would entail sensors on our arm, and with sensor prices coming down rapidly, this would be feasible.

The Georgia Tech business is a priority. The work in and around the fields would be a year down the road.