Researchers never cease to amaze with the variety of new applications for existing technology. Currently at the University of the Basque Country in Spain they are experimenting with lasers to assess when tomatoes are at peak ripeness and ready to be harvested for maximum flavor and nutrient content.
For centuries we have relied on the human senses to guide our food gathering activities. But as farmers are being asked to grow more food on less land with minimal labor, you can imagine the push towards mechanical harvesting. There cameras that can see exactly where that tomato is located and robotic hands that can harvest without damaging them. This laser based, non-destructive testing method will be the final determination on whether to harvest today.
Imagine harvests not hampered by the heat of the day or the lack of a crew. Growers could pick every field daily rather than in the current rotation amongst numerous tracts. Waste in the field would decrease and workers could be redeployed to do tasks that have not yet been able to be automated. It is all about efficiency.
While this could dramatically change what we are used to (like the self-driving cars we hear so much about), change is needed to keep up with the increasing demands put upon our global agricultural system.