NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Chile farmers have faced some challenges this year. The weather conditions, paired with labor shortages, has made it difficult to harvest their crop. There may now be a solution to solve the workforce problem in the coming years. “The solution to labor is mechanized harvest,” said Executive Director of New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA) Travis Day.

Chile roasting season is in full force. While the smell of roasting green chile fills the New Mexico air, it wasn’t an easy season for some chile farmers. One of the challenges was the lack of help.

“We can’t get hardly any people that want to work in the fields anymore. We’re going to have to do something different next year because it was hard getting workers,” said the Owner of Big Jim Farms, Jimmy Wagner.

The NMCA hopes to help with staffing and labor shortages. However, it won’t be more people to help; it’ll be with the use of machines.

Day mentioned, “We want to see more innovation and technology within our industry and with ag in general. We see the mechanized harvest and the ability to harvest chile out of the fields using a machine as a long-term solution for labor shortages.”

The machines will help pick the chile. There’s a biological component to all of this because regular chile can’t survive machinery in the field. That’s why a new variety of chile must be created.

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“If you look at your traditional varieties, they’re not made to go through machines. They bruise pretty easily and then the plants themselves are not built for mechanized harvest,” said Day.

The NMCA is working on it. Day explained with New Mexico State University’s help; one chile type was created to be tough enough. They hope to use those traits and move them across the state. That way, any chiles can be picked out of fields with a machine. However, the machines are not ready just yet. “We’re seeing machines being developed in southern New Mexico that are going through field trials. They’re working very well,” said Day.

According to Day, it’s safe to say a mechanized harvest will be a reality in the next couple of years. The NMCA wasn’t able to send KRQE photos of the machines because the creators are working through the patent process.