Jun 21, 2021
UC Davis breeders eye strawberry cultivar traits that work with robotics

University of California, Davis, has plans in place to put together a test agreement with advanced.farm to trial strawberry cultivars with robotic harvesting this fall.

The cultivars put into the trial will be a combination of both released and unreleased cultivars. “The UC Davis breeding program recognizes the importance of robotic harvesting for the strawberry industry,” Isaac Rainwater, the Strawberry Licensing Field Representative at UC Davis InnovationAccess, said in a news release. “The breeding program has selected cultivars that have certain architectural traits that make them easier to pick and may make them more conducive to robotic harvesting”.

advanced.farm, also headquartered in Davis, has been developing a robotic harvester for soil-planted beds since 2018.  The company currently works with many growers who plant UC Davis cultivars such as Monterey, Royal Royce and Cabrillo.

“In our experience picking over a million strawberries with robots across different regions in California, choosing the right cultivar is critical to the economics of robotic harvest to the grower,” said Kyle Cobb, co-founder of advanced.farm.  “It is encouraging to see the UC Davis breeding program consider traits such as canopy shape and size, petiole length, and stem trussing that impact our success.”

The field trial plots will be planted this fall in Oxnard and Santa Maria, and then monitored in 2022.  advanced.farm will collect field data over the course of the season to give the UC Davis breeders important data with regards to future plant selection.

“This is a great collaboration between the UC Davis strawberry breeding program and advanced.farm,” Rainwater said. “We are excited to see what results come from this on the ground trial.”

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