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Strawberry field day event showcases new berry picking tech

Posted at 1:27 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 22:32:53-04

A strawberry field day event at Cal Poly Thursday brought more than 300 growers, contractors and researchers from across California to the Central Coast.

The event, now in its sixth year, began at 7:30 a.m. at the university's Strawberry Center.

"It's kind of a smorgasbord, you could say, of technology and research," Thomas AmRhein, vice president of Naturipe Berry Growers, told KSBY. "Depending if you're a PCA, or if you're a grower, or if you're a labor contractor company, provide labor services—any of those things—you'll come here and find something that pertains to your branch of the business."

The day included a demonstration of new strawberry picking technology.

strawberry machine picker 7-28-22.PNG
One demonstration showed off new robotics developed for harvesting strawberries.

In the demonstration, mechanical arms reached out and carefully lifted red golf balls from a mat. The machine used suction to lift each golf ball, then a claw closed around it to hold it in place.

"It's more of an aid to the workers in the field," AmRhein said of the technology. "To the extent that we can bring technology in and keep this industry viable and productive, it actually preserves the opportunity for these people to continue to work in the industry."

Presentations also included a look at managing mites and Lygus bus that feed on the plants.

Cal Poly partnered with the California Strawberry Commission for the event.

Strawberries are the most valuable agricultural commodity in San Luis Obispo County, valued at an estimated $287 million in 2020, according to the Agriculture Commissoner's 2020 Crop Report.

Cal Poly students were among those presenting at the event.