The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, is testing deliveries of fruit by planes without pilots and has had its first successful flight.
Tim Riley, president of Giumarra Cos., called the program “groundbreaking” and will transform the future of the industry.
Giumarra is working with start-up Robotics Corp., Mountain View, Calif., using technology developed by the company. Giumarra is pursuing the program “to help address supply chain and delivery challenges within the fresh produce industry,” according to a news release.
The company’s first flight, a 200-mile trip from Reedley Municipal Airport to Whiteman Airport, Los Angeles, was Aug. 7.
“This test proved that the technology is viable and will evolve the way we bring products to market by enabling us to deliver fresher, riper fruit anywhere in the country, including remote food deserts, at speeds never before seen,” Riley said in the release.
The automated Cessna 172 Skyhawk included a pilot and engineer on board “for safety assurance,” according to the release. Reliable Robotics’ first fully autonomous flight was last year. It has also successfully landed the larger Cessna 208 Caravan and is in the process of certifying it for the program as “an ideal for air shipments of produce,” according to the release.
Giumarra shipped peaches from Reedley to Los Angeles for area Gelson’s stores on Aug. 7 in a piloted Cessna 208.
“Giumarra is a forward-thinking company and we’re proud to partner with them to show how automated cargo flights can greatly improve fresh food distribution,” Robert Rose, co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics, said in the release. “We believe autonomous aviation is going to change the way we experience food, for the better.”
The program’s benefits for the industry, according to the release, are:
Efficient delivery of fresh produce to stores in less time, resulting in less shrink;
Produce can be on shelves 24-48 hours after harvest; and
Growers can focus on varieties optimized for flavor and texture rather than long-haul transportation.
The tech company was founded in 2017 by former employees of SpaceX and Tesla. It has raised $33.5 million in two funding rounds, according to the release, and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to bring the tech to market incrementally.