John Ledbetter, a partner and CFO of Lodi, Calif.-based Vino Farms, said it generally costs about $40 to $50 per ton to harvest with a machine.
To pick the same grapes with a hand crew, it would probably be closer to $100 per ton.
Add to that the cost of the tractors and trucks still needed with a hand crew, and the cost is closer to $150 per ton.
manages more than 13,000 acres in 10 California counties stretching from Sacramento County in the northern Central Valley to Santa Barbara County on the Central Coast.
Most of the company's acreage is machine harvested.
said machines are faster and far more efficient.
Two to four people operating machines can replace a crew of 60 to 70 laborers.
"It's pretty easy to do the math on that," he
said that some of the early harvesting technology was pretty rough on the vines.
A few decades ago, he
said, you could tell a machine had gone through by telltale signs of battered vines and torn canes.
"Today, with the technology that's out there, you have to get out of your truck to see if the vines were picked by machines.
The new technology is also being embraced by the next generation of winemakers, whom Ledbetter
said have seen the advantages of machine harvesting.