EMAILED ON August 30, 2019 BY Conor Grant

The race to build berry-picking robots is on

Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this week, a California startup called Advanced Farm Technologies announced it had raised $7.5m in seed funding (the venture capital kind) to continue development of its strawberry-picking robots, Axios reports.

So, why does the world need berry bots?

In short: Farmers can’t find enough flesh-and-blood humans to pick their berries anymore. 

In California, 40% of farmers have not been able to find enough laborers over the past 5 years — and a similar story has taken root across the rest of America, as well.

As a result, 56% of Californian farmers have started automating their farming processes in the past 5 years, and most of them say they are turning to robots due to labor shortages.

But some parts of farming are easier to automate than others

Farmers have found ways to automate planting, weeding, and monitoring their crops — but picking fragile, juicy berries has proved to be one of the most difficult tasks for farm-bots to tackle.

That doesn’t mean Advanced Farming Technologies has been the only company trying to pick berries: Another American ag-tech startup called Harvest Croo and a Spanish startup called Agrobot are also working on building bots that can handle berries with sweet, sweet care.