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Farms Fund Robots to Replace Migrant Fruit Pickers
June 26, 2007 12:48 PM   Subscribe


 
Trees are easy. Let's see it do strawberries, and at a cost of less than the equivalent number of $5 a day workers.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on June 26, 2007


Nino, you worry a too much.
posted by squalor at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2007


That either the machine vision or picking arm is sophisticated enough for common fruit without damaging the plants or fruit would boggle my mind. What type of huge capital investment would these things require?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:15 PM on June 26, 2007


You'd better expect that robots will be doing just about any manual labor tasks within the next 50 years. What to do with the displaced workers? Well, they'd better start learning how to repair robots or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:17 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Imagine when this kind of technology comes to car factories. Wow.
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on June 26, 2007


You'd better expect that robots will be doing just about any manual labor tasks within the next 50 years.

As I understand it, with cheaper shipping/more mobile workforces the trend is actually going the other way. Chinese factories, for instance, frequently just throw manpower at tasks that could be accomplished by machines, and as a result are quite economically successful.
posted by Artw at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2007


more mobile workforces

You mean more mobile capital.

And as for the people developing the robots, how much funding could they have if their concept renderings are done in Sketchup?
posted by signal at 1:48 PM on June 26, 2007


Artw -

You make a good point. In societies like China where people power is still very cheap as compared to Western societies, it does make some sense. Unless, of course, your production aim is for consistency and high quality - something that humans are bad at doing. One of the main reasons automobiles have become so much more reliable over the last 20 years is because of systemic automation: robots are much better at consistent quality mass produced items.

The big problem for China right now is the quality of their products. They're not just poor quality, increasingly we're finding that they are flat-out dangerous. Witness the latest fiasco: the exploding tires!
posted by tgrundke at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2007


It makes sense, I just wonder how a robot judges ripeness. Or maybe it's just more economical to pick everything and sort it later.
posted by 2sheets at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2007


The big problem for China right now is the quality of their products. They're not just poor quality, increasingly we're finding that they are flat-out dangerous.

That would be the fake eggs, posionous food etc... as well.
But on the other hand my very shiney mobile phone was made in China, as was the mouse and keyboard I am using right now (I'd be very much suprised if some of the items that surround you right now that you would consider high quality didn't origininate in China as well). I would suggest that the level of quality of Chinese manufacturing varies according to what the market, pr the client responding to the market, demands.
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on June 26, 2007


Oh no here comes the Robot Amnesty of 2027!
posted by doctorschlock at 2:23 PM on June 26, 2007


The amount of anti-china B.S. floating around these days is really absurd. I'm not talking about human rights and civil liberties, which are problematic, but about products made there. Almost all of our crap is made there, if there were 'quality problems' inherent in the system it would everything we use. People cherry pick random examples and are like "ZOMG, Chinese crap will kill you!!!" It's so annoying.
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2007


So, those robots are going to need maintenance, building, production, parts, etc. If only we could get some personal robots in real life.
posted by IronWolve at 3:04 PM on June 26, 2007


Great. Now Mexican robots will illegally cross the border to do work that American robots won't do.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Chinese have a lot of hells
posted by kirkaracha at 3:23 PM on June 26, 2007


I do sometimes wonder why Californian fruit producers don't just buy up land in Mexico, move their operation over there to exploit the abundant cheap labour, and ship the resulting fruit over the border. I suppose the answer is something terribly obvious to do with growing conditions or tarifs.
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2007


O brave new world that has such people in't!
posted by Dave Faris at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2007


What I really need is a droid that understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.
posted by pupdog at 4:18 PM on June 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


And so it begins.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:57 PM on June 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


> What I really need is a droid that understands the binary language of moisture vaporators.

What I really need is a droid like these. But you know it's just going to be another case of "It's 2001 already, where's my flying car?"
posted by jfuller at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2007


The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.
posted by papakwanz at 5:32 PM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


"THIS IS INSANE AND WHO CARES IF THERE ORANGE IS PICKED BY A MACHINE OR A HUMAN, THEY WOULDN;T KNOW EITHER WAY, WHAT THEY DINT KNOW DONT HURT THEM."

Quite.
posted by pompomtom at 6:21 PM on June 26, 2007


eyeballkid, cont'd.
posted by anthill at 7:27 PM on June 26, 2007


I just wonder how a robot judges ripeness.

Sniffing for levels of specific gases or spectroscopy I would guess.
posted by Zinger at 7:44 PM on June 26, 2007


Wow, this is awesome! Mechanical labor has got to replace menial labor if we hope to improve the human condition. My hope for the future is that we are able to automate all menial or demeaning jobs so that the only things humans have to do are the intellectual or creative ones, and even then, only if you want to.

It'll suck for the workers that are replaced, but a number of superior jobs will be created designing, building, and maintaining the robots. Those jobs won't just be bottom-level subsistence labor, they'll be middle-class. In the end society will benefit.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:42 PM on June 26, 2007


"It'll suck for the workers that are replaced, but a number of superior jobs will be created designing, building, and maintaining the robots. Those jobs won't just be bottom-level subsistence labor, they'll be middle-class. In the end society will benefit.

Uh huh. Yeah. But like you say it'll, um, suck for the workers that are replaced. Suck.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:41 AM on June 27, 2007


I suspect the incremental suck due to the introduction of robots will be small relative to the baseline suck of current citrus picking work. Year-to-year demand for orange pickers will be more affected by frost, canker, and hurricanes than by adoption of very capital-intensive auto-pickers. See: U.S. Orange Production by Year.
posted by ryanrs at 7:08 AM on June 27, 2007


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