University of Florida scientists have developed tomatoes that are potentially machine-harvestable, hoping to alleviate the labor required to pick tomatoes by hand. Jessica Chitwood-Brown, a tomato breeder at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, explains that these tomatoes took decades to develop.

While much progress has been made, mechanized harvesting still faces challenges. The tomatoes cannot be staked or tied, and they need to have a jointless pedicel so they can detach from the stem. This must be balanced with other traits, such as yield and fruit size.

Mechanized harvesting could help states like Florida level the playing field with countries with better access to labor. However, they won’t be ready to begin testing machine harvester prototypes until at least next year.

Read more about machine-harvestable tomatoes here.