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Will robot pickers change our fruit?

How a shortage of fruit pickers is affecting our food.

Across the world, as fruits ripen, teams of pickers set out across the fields. Without them, produce would be left to rot and farms profits would plummet.

But in many countries, population shifts and changes to immigration laws have left farmers struggling to find enough people to do the work. The effect has been particularly pronounced in the US where President Trump has cracked down on immigration, and the UK with its plans to leave the EU.

Enter the robots. Over the past few years, interest and investment in machines that can pick fruit and vegetables that are usually harvested by humans, have been ramping up.

Emily Thomas asks whether we should welcome these new developments. Picking fruit is low paid, low-skilled and physically demanding work, and exploitation in the industry is well-documented. But it’s also a source of income that many depend on, and the main source of employment in some parts of the world.

Plus, if we do let machines do the job, what are the implications for the environment, and how our food looks and tastes?

(Picture: Man reaches forward to pick an apple from a tree. Credit: BBC/ Getty Images)

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