A pilot scheme using a robot to take the hard graft out of market gardening could be a solution to labor shortages in the sector. The machine in question, which runs on rails in a greenhouse tunnel and is driven by software, can be adapted to do many of the repetitive tasks needed to grow fruit and vegetables commercially.
Last year, national statistics agency Insee included market gardeners in its survey of farming and found the number of people employed in the industry had dropped from 7.1% of the working population in 1982 to just 1.5% in 2019.
The robot has been designed by NeoFarm, which offers technological solutions for small-scale farms. The company says it will provide organic vegetables at competitive prices and be better for the environment.
Chris Roig-Ramos of NeoFarm told connexionfrance.com: “We can’t yet get the robot to replant tiny seedlings into pots, but it can prepare the soil and plant seeds with perfect spacing in straight lines, and then do mulching and weeding. We even have tools for the robot to harvest vegetables like carrots, onions, and turnips.”