"Who's going to pick your lettuce?" is a is an often-heard refrain from apologists for illegal aliens in this country. And within a couple of years, the answer is likely to be: robots.
FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years.
Harvest has been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry such as wheat, corn, green beans and tomatoes for some time. But for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce — where the crop's appearance is especially important — harvest is still done by hand.
The eventual loss of jobs for humans will be huge, said Erik Nicholson of Seattle, an official with the United Farm Workers union. He estimated half of the state's farmworkers are immigrants who are in the country illegally.
But many of them have settled in Washington and are productive members of the community, he said.
"They are scared of losing their jobs to mechanization," Nicholson said. "A robot is not going to rent a house, buy clothing for their kids, buy food in a grocery and reinvest that money in the local economy."
Nor will a robot spread disease, as medically unscreened illegals do, nor will they crap in the fields, nor will they ever tire. Current models slated for agriculture are capable of picking 10,000 apples a day. They can also harvest lettuce and strawberries, and by some estimates will pay for themselves within two years. They also don't pump out babies that we have to pay for.