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1 year ago

ThePartnership no. 16

  • Text
  • Tomato
  • Vitalis
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Organic
  • Breeding
  • Varieties
  • Partnership
  • Zaden
  • Enza

Lettuce move forward

Lettuce move forward together The mechanical harvesting of lettuce has gained in popularity in recent years. This used to be a manual activity, but now growers all over the world are looking for less labour-intensive solutions. The shortage of labour is the main driving force behind opting for mechanical harvesting. The Salinas Valley in the USA is known for its high lettuce production, but broccoli, cauliflower and other open field crops are also grown there on a large scale. “The US fresh produce industry largely depends on farm workers. Production of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat have been largely mechanized, but many high-value, labour-intensive crops, such as lettuces, still need labour,” explains Jean-Francois Thomin, Marketing Manager North America. Things are changing. “We have to look back at the late 90s to see such a low unemployment level. Less immigrants are coming to the USA to fulfil agricultural tasks. Next to that, the farm workers are aging. At the start of this century, about one-third of crop workers were over the age of 35. Now, more than half are. It puts a tremendous pressure on farmers to find innovative solutions.” Global issue Labour shortage in the agricultural sector is a global issue. Young Han, Area Manager North Asia, explains the situation in Japan: “In Japan’s agricultural industry for many years, small and medium-sized farmers accounted for the overwhelming majority, but now the structure is changing rapidly. A large number of older, middle and small-scale farmers retire, and their farmland is being collected by farmers who are willing to expand.” Most of the farms in Japan are family-owned, but with the expansion, the shift from family-owned to corporate-owned is also increasing. The number of employees is also on the rise as the scale per business unit increases. The number of 'employed farmers' employed regularly by corporations and individuals increased from approximately 180,000 in 11 years to 240,000 in 17 years. But this is still not enough. According to the 'Agricultural Labor Force Support Council'* employment growth cannot keep pace with the increase in the number of corporations and the scale of its expansion, and there are currently around 70,000 employed farmers lacking. “The gap is expanding year by year, and it is inevitable that the situation of 130,000 people will be missed in five years,” according to Han. Mechanical harvesting All these factors have an impact on the global trend towards mechanisation. Companies have been looking for alternatives for a number of years. “The Salinas Valley is ideally located. We are just 75 miles away from the Silicon Valley. Farmers, engineers and investors are working hand-in-hand to automate farming – from seeds to table. The Salinas AgTech Summit illustrate this dynamic by providing a unique opportunity for over 600 thought leaders to come together and develop new technologies that will change the way we grow food in California,” says Thomin. Han adds: “Also in Japan there are many farmers who save labour while using ICT technology such as robots and drones. However, high-quality agricultural and livestock products require detailed work by hand.” Technology 22 | Partnership Partnership | 23

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