The status of labor-saving mechanization in fruits and vegetables

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2010-06-22
Authors
Huffman, Wallace
Huffman, Wallace
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Economics
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The objective of this paper is to examine the status of labor-saving mechanization in U.S. fruit and vegetable harvesting. Fruit and vegetable harvest mechanization has several potential advantages: reduced harvest costs, eliminate problems associated with finding good quality harvest labor, permit longer harvesting days, and reduce exposure of harvest to human bacteria. Commercial mechanical harvesters for processed tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, tart cherries, apples, grapes, peaches, plums and grapes are in the hands of growers. To my surprise, considerable progress has been made on fresh market sweet cherry, apple and berry harvesters, and in the next few years commercial sales of these machines are expected. A negative shock to labor harvest-labor availability or jump in the harvester wage or piece rate could rapidly accelerate adoption of the best mechanical harvesting technologies by growers and processors. The objective of this paper is to examine the status of labor-saving mechanization in U.S. fruit and vegetable harvesting. Fruit and vegetable harvest mechanization has several potential advantages: reduced harvest costs, eliminate problems associated with finding good quality harvest labor, permit longer harvesting days, and reduce exposure of harvest to human bacteria. Commercial mechanical harvesters for processed tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, tart cherries, apples, grapes, peaches, plums and grapes are in the hands of growers. To my surprise, considerable progress has been made on fresh market sweet cherry, apple and berry harvesters, and in the next few years commercial sales of these machines are expected. A negative shock to labor harvest-labor availability or jump in the harvester wage or piece rate could rapidly accelerate adoption of the best mechanical harvesting technologies by growers and processors.

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mechanized harvesting, fruits, vegetables, processing, fresh market, labor availability, United States
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