Fruit’s Future is so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades [Opinion]

Posing with an American Fruit Grower cover from the 1920s, I see a bright future for the fruit industry.
Posing with an American Fruit Grower cover from the 1920s, I see a bright future for the fruit industry.

Do you know what an earworm is? Sure, there’s a corn earworm. But this time I’m not actually talking about a pest that plagues crops. The earworm I’m referring to is pesky song that keeps playing and playing in your head.

As I was traveling from one winter meeting — the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s annual meeting — to another —the Almond Conference, I got a song stuck in my head, Timbuk3’s “Future So Bright.” You may not have heard of Timbuk3, but I hope a few of you recognize the line “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” Otherwise the point of this column may be for naught.

What got me thinking about the song was just how much optimism and excitement surrounds the fruit industry. Automation may — hopefully —be on the horizon, much faster than people expect.

“I feel like we’re getting close,” Dan Steere, CEO of Abundant Robotics said during an update at the Washington event on the robotic harvester his company is developing.

He says research is continuing with the end goal of the robotic harvester to pick fruit with the same, if not better, fruit quality than traditional harvesting.

Steere said in field testing, the robotic harvester has logged a 5.3% defect rate – including cuts, bruises, and some punctures — while picking ‘Gala’ this fall. The other bit of note is how encouraging the sensors are in detecting the apples in the tree canopy.

“We’re happy we’re seeing 95% of apples with the robotic harvester,” he said.

Following Steere’s presentation was a grower panel on mechanization options for modern orchards. Washington growers Dave Gleason of Domex Superfresh Growers and Bob Murphy of McDougall & Sons were joined by Rod Farrow of Lamont Fruit Farms in New York.

These men have known this robotic harvester is on the way, as it has been mentioned at many industry events over the past few years. However, their excitement at the latest progress and development was hard to hide. With labor availability through H-2A or otherwise becoming a greater and greater challenge, the robotic harvester is seen as a big development coming soon and coming fast. Gleason, Murphy, and Farrow urged the growers in the session to begin thinking about how to get orchards ready for automation within the next 5 or 10 years.

“We’re going to be an industry of haves and have nots,” Farrow said, “You need to be in the group of haves.”

This optimism is also seen in this issue which marks our second annual State of the Industry report. Dave Eddy and I have spent time poring over your responses to our survey and one thing we’ve learned is despite all the challenges you may have faced this past growing season –— labor availability, water, weather, drought, pests —you’re still looking at the tree fruit industry as being glass half full.

It’s a refreshing and exciting time for us, and for you.

As Timbuk3 sings “Things are going great, and they’re only getting better …

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”

Time to break out my sunglasses.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fruits Stories
Washington Capitol building
Citrus
April 21, 2017
Alliance Stepping Up Efforts to Protect Specialty Crops
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance has kicked off its efforts to communicate to Congress its priority needs for the Read More
Apples & Pears
April 21, 2017
Interpera Congress Heads to Pacific Northwest in June
International pear conference comes to the U.S. for the first time. Read More
glass of red wine
Grapes
April 20, 2017
Would You Be Willing to Pay More for Organic Wine?
While consumers might be ready to fork over more for organic produce, study says the feeling isn't quite the same when it comes to the adult beverage. Read More
UF/IFAS scientist Jonathan Crane inspects avocado trees in South Florida
Crop Protection
April 20, 2017
Beetle Battle Burgeoning for South Florida Avocado Growers
Scientists identify more species of pests that vector deadly fungus. Read More
farm labor pic for web
Citrus
April 20, 2017
Farm Labor Is in Crisis
To have a great crop potentially rot in the field because workers can’t be sourced is probably worse than a weather event taking out production. Read More
Grapes
April 19, 2017
Donnell Brown Named President of National Grape & Wine Initiative
New president brings experience in wine industry communications. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 19, 2017
Young Apple Growers Meet with Lawmakers
Apple leaders from across the country discuss ag issues such as labor, trade, and research. Read More
Barnes Farm cabbage field in Hastings, FL
Citrus
April 18, 2017
Florida Growers Seeking Inspiration Need Not Look Far
The firsthand experience of speaking with farmers and actually seeing all the hard work, knowledge, ingenuity, and people behind where our food comes from is invaluable. Read More
Farm Management
April 18, 2017
Survey Says New York Growers Lost More than 70% of Crop Last Year
Growers say they suffered more than 50% crop losses in Western New York. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 18, 2017
Researchers Say it is Time to Scout for Apple Diseases
With bloom underway, the risk for fire blight and scab are high. Read More
Fruits
April 17, 2017
How Fruit Growers Use Biocontrols [Infographic]
The editors at American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower were curious about how biocontrols are impacting the industry. So we took a look at our 2017 State of the Fruit Industry Survey to see what patterns are emerging. Here's what we learned. Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
Citrus
April 17, 2017
Florida Flush with Water Shortage Warnings
Conservation practices preached throughout the state as exceptionally dry pattern persists.  Read More
Citrus
April 17, 2017
Natural Enemies for Asian Citrus Psyllid
The eventual spread of Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, to commercial groves in California seems inevitable. But the devastation seen Read More
Specialty vegetable farm market display
Citrus
April 14, 2017
How Florida Growers Are Agritaining and Gaining
Come one, come all — big and small — there are multiple ways to benefit from Agritourism. Read More
The Hill family of Southern Hill Farms in Florida
Berries
April 13, 2017
Florida Farming Family Staying on Top of the Blueberry Game
The Hill family of Southern Hill Farms continues to up their efforts to diversify business and stay out ahead of a competitive market. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
April 24, 2017
Who Will Be Florida’s next Woman of the …
Nomination period now open for longstanding recognition from FDACS. Read More
Citrus
April 23, 2017
Bio Huma Netics, Inc., and Mesa Verde Re…
Strategic alliance between the two companies is designed to offer customers greater access to products. Read More
Citrus
April 21, 2017
Alliance Stepping Up Efforts to Protect …
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance has kicked off its efforts to communicate to Congress its priority needs for the Read More
Crop Protection
April 20, 2017
Beetle Battle Burgeoning for South Flori…
Scientists identify more species of pests that vector deadly fungus. Read More
Citrus
April 20, 2017
Farm Labor Is in Crisis
To have a great crop potentially rot in the field because workers can’t be sourced is probably worse than a weather event taking out production. Read More
Citrus
April 18, 2017
Florida Growers Seeking Inspiration Need…
The firsthand experience of speaking with farmers and actually seeing all the hard work, knowledge, ingenuity, and people behind where our food comes from is invaluable. Read More
Farm Management
April 18, 2017
Survey Says New York Growers Lost More t…
Growers say they suffered more than 50% crop losses in Western New York. Read More
Fruits
April 17, 2017
How Fruit Growers Use Biocontrols [Infog…
The editors at American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower were curious about how biocontrols are impacting the industry. So we took a look at our 2017 State of the Fruit Industry Survey to see what patterns are emerging. Here's what we learned. Read More
Citrus
April 17, 2017
Florida Flush with Water Shortage Warnin…
Conservation practices preached throughout the state as exceptionally dry pattern persists.  Read More
Citrus
April 17, 2017
Natural Enemies for Asian Citrus Psyllid
The eventual spread of Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, to commercial groves in California seems inevitable. But the devastation seen Read More
Citrus
April 14, 2017
How Florida Growers Are Agritaining and …
Come one, come all — big and small — there are multiple ways to benefit from Agritourism. Read More
Farm Management
April 12, 2017
How California’s No-Drought Status…
Find out which previous orders are rescinded as a result of the drought being declared over — and which ones are not. Read More
Fruits
April 12, 2017
An Organic Showcase Debuts at the 2017 U…
The Expo will feature more than 40 "innovative organic products." Read More
Citrus
April 10, 2017
BASF Licenses CRISPR-Cas9 Technology for…
Genome-editing from Broad Institute has potential to be a more precise tool to improve ag products. Read More
Citrus
April 6, 2017
Mild or Wild? Here Is Your 2017 Atlantic…
Possible return of El Niño climate phase could sap strength out of any stormy scenarios. Read More
Citrus
April 5, 2017
Chlorpyrifos’ Ban Reversed: Resear…
Last week, EPA declined to ban the pesticide, which had been recommended for removal during the Obama administration. Read More
Equipment
April 4, 2017
What’s New in Tractors for Vegetab…
Take a look at these new models and retrofit opitons ideal for specialty crop growing. Read More
Citrus
March 31, 2017
FMC to Acquire Portion of DuPont Crop Pr…
Deal makes FMC the fifth largest agriculture chemical company, valued at $3.8 billion annually. Read More