Berry body urges government to heed recommendations laid out in Defra’s review of automation in horticulture

Following the release of the Defra-commissioned review of automation in horticulture, British Berry Growers has called on the government to heed the review’s recommendations.

Strawberries being carried Adobe

The automation in horticulture review brought together experts across horticulture, technology and supporting industries to understand what would be required to accelerate the development of automation technologies in horticulture.

The review put forward key recommendations to government to overcome barriers to automation development.

“If implemented, the recommendations in the review can set out a path toward automation that will support our berry growers and secure the long-term health of the entire horticulture industry,” said British Berry Growers chairman Nick Marston.

“The report rightly acknowledges that the replacement of fruit pickers with autonomous selective harvesting is a long way off and therefore seasonal workers are essential in bridging this gap.

“As such, the review’s recommendation calling on Defra to consider pursuing a long-term Seasonal Workers Scheme starting in 2022 is very much welcomed,” he continued. ”A long-term scheme will give growers the much-needed certainty they need to plan and grow their businesses.

“However, we are also calling for Defra and the Home Office to not only extend the length of the scheme, but to also increase the number of visas made available. It is essential that farms have access to the seasonal labour they need to harvest their fruit in the years before such automation is a reality.

“We’d like to thank professor Simon Pearson, and all involved, for bringing together the findings and putting forward the recommendations in this review,” Marston added.

“The power is now in the hands of government, and we strongly urge whoever steps into number ten to fully implement the recommendations put forward in the review.”