Robots are taking over

New Zealand & Tasmanian fruit growers facing labour shortages

Tasmania’s fruit picker shortage is a much bigger problem than simply the backpacker tax, with industry stakeholders calling for a state-wide solution before the autumn fruit season begins. According to Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager, Phil Pyke, the picker shortage is a combination of a number of factors.

According to, the two major issues are a lack of consistent agricultural work placements for Tasmanian workers and Australia’s reputation for backpacker exploitation.

Meanwhile, New Zealand growers who have been struggling with a labour shortage for a while now, are turning to machines to make the most of a forecast boom in the horticulture industry this year.

The versatile robots, designed by companies like Robotic Plus, aren't restricted to picking apples - a tractor-like machine is currently being used to pollinate kiwifruit orchards. It's automated and uses the GPS co-ordinates of a chosen area to work its way through.

Robotic products are likely to have a big impact on orchards throughout New Zealand, but there's the potential for even bigger business in places like the United States, where the apple market is 10-12 times bigger.

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