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Aging farmers and the impact on labor
The aging of farmers leads to a decrease in available labor for traditional agricultural tasks. The growing demand for personnel and temporary seasonal workers for harvesting activities abroad is a challenge that HuizingHarvest Jobs has been observing for some time. It is a trend that has caught our attention, prompting us to respond immediately by providing extra support and temporary manpower to our partners in the agricultural sector. It is evident that this labor shortage will only increase in the future. In response, we see a growing interest and demand for robotics. More and more farmers and agricultural companies realize that autonomous technologies can help compensate for the labor shortage and work more efficiently. At the same time, we see an increase in the size and weight of agricultural machinery, partly driven by the labor shortage. This results in soil compaction and reduced crop yields.
For example, by using autonomous systems, farmers can deploy smaller and lighter machinery, reducing pressure on the soil. Autonomous techniques also require fewer laborers or can be deployed from another location.
Food producers are under pressure from governments and consumers who demand increasing transparency, traceability, and sustainability. Fortunately, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) can help. By using AI, producers can be more transparent about production processes, and consumers can easily trace the origin of food. Additionally, we assist companies with precision technology to detect weeds. This can be treated or removed in a location-specific manner, with or without the use of chemicals.
Together with experts in precision technology, we have implemented the construction of this sprayer.
This is the story of our former colleague, Jasper. After traveling the world for seven years on behalf of HuizingHarvest Projects, where he mainly supported agricultural machinery manufacturers with adjustments and improvements, he recently embarked on a new phase in his career. Jasper has now started at our partner BBLeap, a company striving for more sustainable agriculture through advanced technologies.
They develop systems that allow farmers to provide each plant with what it needs, resulting in less input, less waste, and more resilient crops. Jasper’s expertise gained over the years now enables him to train and advise end-users on optimizing the use of this technological advancement. His experience and knowledge are a valuable addition to BBLeap’s mission and contribute to further development of sustainable agricultural practices.
As you may have read in blog post 2, we are committed to the future of agriculture and assist our partners in innovating. Therefore, we collaborate with agro startups. These startups are constantly developing new technologies and see us as a bridge between their innovations and their practical application in the agricultural sector. It is a collaboration where our knowledge, along with the latest technologies, can be directly applied and have an impact in the fieldwork. These collaborations with agro startups seamlessly align with the trends we see in the agricultural sector. In 2023, 30% of our assignments were related to testing machines, while 10% were related to precision agriculture and robotics.
Consider Lucas and Daniel, two former interns of our organization. They graduated from VIVES University and collaborated with a team of seven professionals in the United States. Their mission? Integrating robotics into the operations of farmers. This is a perfect example of how technologies can truly make a difference in the daily activities of farmers.
In addition to these collaboration projects, we also supported a demo tour demonstrating the versatility of autonomous agricultural technology. We showed farmers how robots can help efficiently manage various crops and how they can be adapted to different production environments.
Another remarkable project was testing an autonomous asparagus harvesting robot. Although we cannot go into detail about the specific technology, this project illustrates how technological progress extends to various crops and production environments. It offers farmers new opportunities to optimize and make their operations more efficient.
In collaboration with the Farm of the Future (BvdT) and the Flevoland growers group of the National Field Trial Precision Agriculture (NPPL), WUR has implemented a precision sprayer. Together with experts in precision technology, we have realized the construction of this sprayer. Watch the video to take a look at how this technology works.
Collaborations with agrostartups seamlessly align with the trends we observe in the agricultural sector.
.We remain vigilant in the market and are always looking for new opportunities to improve our services. Colleagues Paul and Quentin will attend the World Fira event in Toulouse in early February, focusing on autonomous solutions for agriculture. There, the men will immerse themselves in the latest technological developments and share their insights with experts and colleagues.
Innovation and robotics are not only burning topics in Europe, but they are also high on the agenda globally. In Melbourne, Australia, where Nico Huizing has been based with his family since August last year to further expand the HuizingHarvest branch in New Gisborne, the situation is no different. In April, he will attend the Future AgExpo to closely follow developments. This event is organized in collaboration with Agritechnica, a trade fair in which we participated in November 2023.
During Agritechnica in Hanover, we participated in the Future AG Tech Route, organized by DLG. Visitors could indicate their interest in robotics using an app and follow a route along exhibitors specializing in this area. This has led to valuable conversations and future collaborations.
Now that we have caught a glimpse of the future of agricultural robotics, it is time to shift our focus to the power of collaboration and partnerships in Blogpost 4. Here, we will emphasize the role that collaborations play in the ongoing development and implementation of innovative solutions in agriculture.