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Could robots be the answer to UK labour issues?

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A recent report suggests that robots could help UK growers deal with potential labour shortages in the future, but in practice their widespread use may still be some way off.

Published by the Resolution Foundation, a new report suggests that some sectors of the fresh produce industry might consider the use of robots and greater automation, while others will require a carefully considered immigration policy to prevent damaging staff shortages.

Adam Corlett, Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation said: “People have long warned about the rise of the job stealing robots, but they haven’t had much effect to date in a country that has record employment and a terrible record on productivity. “For sectors like agriculture, further automation could provide part of the answer to coping with the changed labour market, although it will require a major shift in investment to become a reality.”

The report came as US company Harvest CROO revealed more details of its automated strawberry picker which is in development. “Our biggest differentiator has always been that growers will not have to change the way they currently grow strawberries,” said Gary Wishnatzki, co-founder of Harvest CROO and owner of Wish Farms based in Plant City, FL. “Now, with the patent of the Pitzer Wheel, what I believe to be the heart of the invention, we have another strong distinguishing factor.”

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