Automation in Agribusiness

Automation in Agribusiness

September 8, 2020

Tyson Foods Makes Bet Increased Automation

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network

It’s no secret that labor is a massive challenge in agriculture, from the vegetable farms of the Salinas Valley all the way up to the country’s largest meat processing companies. Automation is coming to agriculture, but it takes more than just a product to change the way a company approaches this technology.

Tyson Foods recently made the bold move of hiring Dean Banks as their new CEO. His background? Not meat. Automation.

Janette Barnard is a Consultant for animal agriculture companies and writes Prime Future, a weekly newsletter about the industry.

“It's a huge bet that Tyson has made. But if you look at the last year that they've had, where their biggest challenge during COVID has been keeping plans running as a function of labor, right? Whether labor was sick or scared to come in, whatever that situation was for employees, the root issue was that Tyson could not run their plants without people. And so combine that with the fact that, you know, if you look at the cost of goods of a pound of beef or a pound of pork, whatever it is, a huge percentage of it is associated with the labor of processing,”said Barnard.

Barnard said she couldn’t recall another move similar to this one from a major agribusiness in the past. It could be a sign of things to come, but it is a big risk.

“This could backfire in a number of ways. And so it's interesting because it is very much a high risk, high reward strategy that they've taken,” said Barnard.