PIKETON, Ohio – Robotic strawberry pickers on the farm?
Researchers in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University are testing a new prototype robotic sensor technology that can assist farmers in strawberry production, potentially saving growers up to $10,000 per acre in labor harvesting costs.
Although researchers at Ohio State are still testing this new technology to determine if it is economically feasible for farmers to adopt, it could be a significant boost to strawberry farmers, said Brad Bergefurd, a horticulturist with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
“The potential benefit for using technology like this is significant in reducing labor costs and increasing farm profits,” he said. “Using technology like this can reduce reliance on stoop hand labor, which is the hardest part of growing strawberry crops.
“Farmers oftentimes lament that they have a hard time finding good and reliable farm labor.”
Growers can see a demonstration of this new technology during a Strawberry Field Night May 21 offered by horticulturists and other CFAES experts.
The Ohio State University South Centers at Piketon will host the workshop, which is targeted toward beginning and advanced growers and will also offer information on basic and advanced high tunnel techniques, said Bergefurd, who is based at the South Centers and will lead the event.
OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of the college. The centers also are part of the college.
The field night will also feature a presentation from officials with Adev Automation Inc. Advanced Robotics, a Springboro, Ohio-based company that offers robotic assistance with strawberry growing, Bergefurd said.
The workshop will also offer insight into other key concerns facing small fruit growers, including winter protection techniques and how to monitor and trap spotted wing drosophila, a pest that can be devastating to fruit crops, said Charissa McGlothin, a program assistant with the South Centers.
The program is 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the OSU South Centers’ Endeavor Center, 1862 Shyville Road, Piketon.
Workshop sessions will include:
· Winter Protection Techniques
· Israeli Drip Irrigation Demonstration and Management
· Fertigation and Nitrogen Management
· Row Cover Management
· June-bearing, Day-neutral, Ever-bearing Cultivar Evaluations
· Pest and Disease Control
· Spotted Wing Drosophila Monitoring and Trapping
· Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Techniques
· Petiole Sap Analysis Demonstration
McGlothin said past participants have deemed the workshop as very beneficial.
“We do this field night every year in May and typically get a good turnout of both beginning and advanced growers looking to get updates on the latest information on the projects our researchers have worked on over the year,” she said. “This is a value to growers who are able to save money and increase profits based on information that we’re able to pass on to them through these types of events.”
Registration is $20 and includes handouts and dinner. The registration deadline is May 19. To register or for more information, contact McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132, or email email@example.com.