I've long warned that automation threatens tens of millions of blue-collar jobs (and, increasingly, millions of white-collar ones) over the next couple of decades. With the pressure on the Biden administration from the progressive left to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr, the responding pressure to reduce or eliminate labor costs is going to become well-nigh irresistible. We've already seen how one supermarket chain, faced with "politically correct" city wage regulations, simply closed some of its stores in response. (I'm sure the workers there are grateful to their councillors for dumping them on the dole, instead of letting them earn their daily bread.)
Now we see how cost and other pressures are driving automation in the farming industry. Here's a video from Israeli company Tevel Aerobotics Technologies.
An article about the technology states:
The FAR robot can work 24 hours a day and picks only ripe fruit. It uses AI perception algorithms to locate the trees and vision algorithms to detect the fruit among the foliage and classify its size and ripeness. After choosing the right fruit, the robot then works out the best way to approach the fruit and remain stable as its picking arm grasps the fruit.
Several FAR robots can harvest the orchards without getting in each other’s way thanks to a single autonomous digital brain in a ground-based unit. Tevel’s fruit picking robot delivers the highest performance at the lowest cost, along with high levels of flexibility that enable the harvest of multiple fruit types, including apples, pears and avocado. They also work on thinning and pruning functions.
“There are never enough hands available to pick fruit at the right time and the right cost. Fruit is left to rot in the orchard or sold at a fraction of its peak value, while farmers lose billions of dollars each year,” the company says.
Such robots and artificial intelligence always bring up the topic of human unemployment. However, the company states that its robots are designed to complement human fruit pickers rather than replace them.
The Israeli start-up Tevel wants to market its first autonomous fruit picking robot-drone by 2021. To help it, the Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturer Kubota has recently invested $20 million in its project.
There's more at the link.
By all accounts, there are tens of millions of seasonal workers engaged in harvesting America's crops every year. Many are from Mexico and other countries, some with legal work permits, others illegal aliens. If legislative pressure to pay them more becomes too great, I can see an awful lot of farms - particularly those owned and operated by Big Agriculture - saying "Enough is enough!", and switching to automated farming on a large scale. The field is developing fast enough that it won't be long before that's entirely feasible.
What will become of those deprived of earning their living? I'm betting most will become public dependents via the welfare system - which the Biden administration will encourage, because the more people they can make dependent on the government for handouts, the more control they can exercise over how they vote.
Don't ever think the "minimum wage" pressure is about justice for labor. It's not. It's all about the politics of control.