Labor shortages prompt increased mechanical grape harvesting in North Bay

May 11, 2019

(NVR) - The message was clear Wednesday in an auditorium full of wine industry professionals: Machines are taking over the grape harvesting.

Vineyard managers who spoke at the 24th annual Vineyard Economics Symposium at the Copia educational center in Napa were in agreement that they were turning more toward machines to replace humans for various agricultural jobs given the dearth of available workers and the increasing costs to employ them. They differed only on how quickly the pace of the change to fewer people working in the vineyards will take place.

“Most of our contracts that we are doing now, we are trying to make sure growers can machine pick,” said Matt Heil, director of fruit supply at Copper Cane Wine & Provisions in the Napa Valley. His company uses machines in 85% to 90% of grape picks in the North and Central coasts with hand-picks saved for when it is necessary.

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