AHDB Horticulture has distributed a survey to identify how future investment in robotics and other technologies can help address concerns about labour availability and costs in horticulture.
Labour accounts for up to 70 per cent of variable production costs in some areas of horticulture, according to the body, which funds research and development in the sector.
With the National Living Wage driving up employment costs, and Brexit casting doubt on the future availability of migrant workers, technology could prove critical to reducing labour costs and easing pressure on businesses, the AHDB believes.
A survey has been sent to growers of a wide range of horticulture crops and selected businesses will be contacted for in-depth studies.
Debbie Wilson, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB, said: “We recognise the significance of labour costs for horticultural businesses and therefore the importance of doing things that help growers reduce them.
“Fundamental to getting these activities right is having the full picture of what the current position is in our industry, which is what this survey is designed to do. We hope that growers will be willing to spare some time to respond.”
Steve Tones, horticulture strategy director at AHDB, added: “Addressing the increasing cost and decreasing availability of labour is one of the top three priorities of our strategy, and a key issue for most growers.
“We recently launched a programme to bring lean principles into all sectors of horticulture, which offers immediate improvements in business productivity.
“The robotics and automation survey will provide us with the information we need to shape our future activity to meet the longer-term needs of the horticulture industry for alternatives to human labour.”
Growers interested in participating in an in-depth telephone survey should send their details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The survey, which can be completed online, is part of a series of AHDB projects to help improve labour efficiencies in horticulture.