Technology will enable horticulture growth

23 Mar 2017



Horticulture is growing economically, and doing so sustainably. One feature of growth is that it means there is money available to invest in improved production. Horticulture grows through exports; this is proven by the fact that over the two years from June 2014, exports grew an incredible 40%.  So the first key ingredient has been satisfied: money to fund more growth.

One of the more difficult issues facing horticulture is getting skilled and reliable labour for all tasks, be they entry level, in the laboratory, in our off-shore markets, for IT and technology support, or in management. Technological advances can help solve labour shortage issues. One example is stacking pallets with produce. This is a physically demanding task, and one which is hard to keep doing all day; a robot can do this with no problems. So technology can solve some of horticulture’s labour issues, at least to the extent that in the next five years, I believe there will be an exponential increase in the use of robots, not only in packhouses, but out in the gardens and orchards as well.

But the advantages of technology do not stop with labour supplementation. The significant differences that technology will make for horticulture include reliability, consistency, precision, reduced waste, more environmentally sustainable operations, and giving operators access to best practice knowledge out in the garden and the orchard. The results will be an overall increase in productivity. A good example is a solar powered vegetable robot that works tirelessly, distinguishing between weeds and vegetables, giving a targeted dose of fertiliser to the vegetable and removing the weed. Such a machine is currently undergoing trials.

Technology, therefore, has a significant contribution to make to the continued growth of horticulture; it is affordable and can increase production per hectare, in turn enabling further investment in technology.  What a great growth cycle!

- Mike Chapman, CEO