Grain harvesting is already mechanized, but delicate specialty crops like nuts, fruits, and vegetables are still mostly picked by hand, often under harsh and exploitative labor conditions.
Working conditions in indoor farms are more stable and predictable than outdoor farms. That also makes them riper for automation, which can cut energy and water consumption.
Now come robots that could cut labor costs in half. Denver-based TortgaAgTech is developing robotic produce pickers to harvest strawberries, lettuce and other crops from indoor farms. Its seed round is led by early-stage venture capital firm Root Ventures.
Ag robots have a long row to hoe. The U.S. is the leading global producer of strawberries, which still are mostly grown outdoors.