Idaho Research Team Builds Robot To Help Fill Farmworker Shortage

Jul 13, 2016

There may soon come a day where the vineyards in Canyon County are tended to by a robot.

Students Richie Grindstaff and Lucas Pomeroy with Northwest Nazarene University professors Duke Bulanon and Josh Griffin with the prototype "IdaBot" (left to right).
Credit Northwest Nazarene University

Northwest Nazarene University engineering professor Josh Griffin is helping to lead a team of researchers and students building a prototype. They received an $81,000 grant from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to create the aptly named “IdaBot.”

“Orchards and vineyards are one of those areas that still just uses a lot of manual labor," says Griffin. "Picking fruit, counting grapes, applying pesticides – those kinds of things – are all done usually with a person. So we’re hoping that this robot would be able to automate some of those tasks.”

Although they’re still in the early phase of building IdaBot, Griffin says they’ve heard from grape producers in the Treasure Valley interested in the project. He says farmers are having a tough time consistently finding workers – especially in a political climate not always in favor of immigration.

Griffin says the robot should be ready for testing in the field next spring.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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