January 30, 2015; Mark Anderson, Staff Writer - Sacramento Business Journal
Two efforts are underway locally to help automate farming operations. A group of researchers in Davis is developing a robot to help kill weeds. And an Australian company is building an automated olive press in Woodland that will produce olive oil more quickly and with less labor than other presses in the area.
Increased automation has been a goal of agricultural innovation for years. It's faster and less expensive than manual labor, which currently is in short supply.
Tougher immigration laws and an improving economy in Mexico have resulted in fewer immigrant farmworkers in California. That poses a labor problem for an industry that has long relied on immigrant workers.
"The long-term picture is not a pretty one," said John Selep, managing partner of AgTech Innovation Fund in Davis. "This is an increasingly critical issue."