Saving Labor Cost in Broccoli Harvest
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
Josh Ruiz and Monsanto Seeds have partnered up to harvest broccoli mechanically. Ruiz is vice president of AG operations with Church Brothers Farms in Salinas.
“They brought us a genetic variety of broccoli where the head does sit up higher. When it comes to broccoli, all varieties have their heads mature at different rates,” Ruiz explained.
That being said, the fields must be harvested multiple times as the crop matures. With these new genetics, you can get it all done in one sweep.
“I want it to be as simple for my people because I want them to be happy. Cutting once and moving on is what makes them happy,” Ruiz said.
There are a bunch of growers around California, Arizona and in Mexico; they want to get that ground back and use it one more time before the season’s over.
“This gives them about a month’s worth of time back in their hands, which, in the world we live in, is huge,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said he is going to continue to develop mechanical harvesting for other crops.
“Iceberg and Romaine are the next two big projects,” he explained.
Iceberg is known to be the “holy grail.” Ruiz has a prototype in the works, and he’s willing to work with anyone who is willing to partner.
“The Broccoli Project, the last five years, has overwhelmed my team and me, but we are ready for the next challenge,” he said
“My day to day is focused on not only running the AG operations for Church Brothers, but I spend a lot of my day focused on innovation and how can we do things better, quicker, faster, cheaper,” he continued.
Ruiz is passionate about automation and innovation. He is currently working with lettuce, romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, spring mix, spinach, and kale.
He said his interest in mechanical harvesting is mostly based out of labor issues, but it goes further from there.
“I see this as the future. I’m not the computer guy, and I’m not the engineer, but I love that stuff, and I want to go find out how to make it possible for me to learn,” he said.
Approximately five years ago, Ruiz began his relations with Monsanto with the Broccoli Project.
“We just unveiled our brand new version of our machine, and I have no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be out there in the field. You’ll see it going down the Salinas Valley from here on out.”