According to a short-term limited survey by the California Farm Bureau Federation, one-third of farmers are looking to or already use machines in order to make up for labor shortages. Of the 762 respondents, 69 percent of the farmers had labor shortages in 2017.
Crinklaw Farm Services was seeing the same labor shortage problem, so they invented the Global Unmanned Spray System (GUSS), an autonomous sprayer that made the World Ag Expo's top 10 new products list.
At the World Ag Expo, Feb. 13-15, Crinklaw Farm Services showed the GUSS in action. They had a small orchard display with the machine driving through it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to it, walking by and checking it out,” said Gary Thompson, the marketing director for Crinklaw Farm Services.
This company from Kingsburg also had sprayers on display so folks could come up close and look at the part.
Crinklaw Farm Services like other farmers has been having a hard time to get people to do the work they do. The GUSS only needs one operator for multiple machines to run simultaneously.
“We started down this path because of the labor shortage,” Thompson said.
He also said some of the other benefits of the GUSS that make it great are efficiency accuracy and safety.
Crinklaw claims they can spray around 5,000 acres in peak season. Thompson said it also has very precise programming that only allows the machine to go a certain speed and spray the precise amount onto the trees.
It took four years to develop this product. The programming of the sprayers and the sensors is what took the most amount of time to develop. The biggest task they had was getting their product to work when it loses GPS under the tree canopy which is why they decided to develop the orchard model first.
Thompson said he does not believe anyone else is making anything like the product they have.
They are currently working on developing a vineyard version of the GUSS.
Currently, the GUSS is only being used for the farms they serve in California and Arizona. Although the GUSS is not currently for sale, Crinklaw is thinking about selling its product to farms. The company has garnered a lot of interest in this product since its release.
Crinklaw Farm Services is also working on an autonomous mower product for orchards and potentially vineyards to follow.