Less than four years ago, the Salinas, Calif.-based berry grower formed a research and development division focused on fruit breeding and automation, said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations.

The company hired a doctor to head the program and now partners with other breeding companies as well as UC Davis to develop new varieties of berries, he added.

Moriyama didn’t disclose what specifically the company was working on in terms of automation, but said new developments are on the horizon.

The company has stopped increasing its organic berry program, Moriyama said, and will keep it flat. 

Demand is there, he said, but it’s been a question whether customers would pay the premium price necessary for an organic program to make financial sense.