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Local Company Developing Robots to Replace Farm Workers

We speak with a San Diego company that has developed robots to perform the labor-intensive work of fruit picking, a farming industry that currently employs thousands of migrant workers.

Local Company Developing Robots to Replace Farm Workers

(Photo: Orange Picker Simulation, Courtesy of Vision Robotics Corp. )

Tom Fudge: How do you pick oranges? The answer is, basically, you hire work crews to pick the fruit off the trees. But California citrus growers have gotten very frustrated in recent years. That's because Congress and the President can't agree on immigration policy.


For years, California's citrus industry has relied on recent immigrants, legal and otherwise, to bring in the crop. And the resistance to allow amnesty for illegal immigrants, or a guest worker program, has meant lots of uncertainty for growers.

That's why a San Diego company is working on creating a robot orange picker. Does this mean that mechanization is finally coming to California citrus farming?


  • Andrew Phelps, KPBS reporter and Jacobs fellow.