Hurry up – the human workers will soon be gone!

Robots modelled on the human hand could soon be deployed on British farms to pick cauliflowers and other vegetables. Harvesting cauliflowers is not straightforward: each head must be assessed, to ensure that it is suitably white and compact, and then carefully prised from its stem, with a few outer leaves still attached to protect the head until it is ready to eat. The human hand is perfect for this task, which is why many farmers prefer to have it done manually – and why scientists at the University of Plymouth stuck closely to it when designing a robot replacement. Their GummiArm – currently being trialled in Cornwall – has jointed arms, cameras and sensors in its “fingers”, which enable it to assess when the caulis are ready. And it isn’t only a brassica-picker: chief designer Dr Martin Stoelen says it could be used to harvest other vegetables, and even repurposed for weeding. For farmers, the technology could be transformative. Harvesting represents up to half of the costs of brassica production. (The Daily Telegraph snd The Week, 17 March 2018)

The techies had better hurry. Soon the Brexiters will have chased the (mostly) East European workers out of the country and we will only have chemically polluted brassicas (free of EU regulations and therefore possibly toxic) sitting unharvested. Even more worrying is the presumed exit of plumbers, carpenters, electricians, plasterers, painters, roofers, glaziers, metalworkers. “Shooting yourself in the foot” as a phrase doesn’t quite describe the disaster.

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