The future of farming will see robots replacing field workers … New robot-run farm factory produces 30,000 heads of lettuce a day
Tuesday, February 02, 2016 by: J. D. Heyes
It’s a development that is bad for employment but, in a strange way, it could serve to help solve another problem facing America – illegal immigration.
It seems the world’s first robot farm is about to launch, and initially its non-human workforce will be capable of picking 30,000 heads of lettuce per day.
As reported by Tech Insider, chief executives of a lettuce production company in Japan called Spread, believe that future farmers will be robots. In fact, they are so adamant about it at Spread, that the firm is creating the world’s first farm that is going to be managed entirely by robots. Rather than relying on human workers, an indoor vegetable factory will employ robots instead, and they will be very productive.
Reports Tech Insider further:
Don’t expect a bunch of humanoid robots to roam the halls, however; the robots look more like conveyor belts with arms. They’ll plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvest in the Kyoto, Japan farm.
“The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history,” J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread, told Tech Insider. “With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops.”
Development of the vegetable factory falls in line with the agricultural trend known as vertical farming – farmers who grow crops indoors without natural sunlight, relying instead on LED light, while growing crops on stackable racks. Such farming also means food can be grown all year long.
Vertical farming not only bolsters production and reduces food waste, but it also means no runoff of pesticides and herbicides into water tables, which are commonly used in outdoor farming and which put the environment at risk.
The new farm in Japan is scheduled to open in 2017, and will be an upgrade to an existing indoor farm begun by Spread – the Kameoka Plant. There, about 21,000 heads of lettuce are harvested daily using only a small staff of human employees. The Spread farm will reduce labor costs by 50 percent (which should also translate into cheaper food prices), boost production, cut energy usage by about one-third, and recycle nearly all of the water needed to grow crops.
Price says the increase in revenue and resources is likely to result in cost savings for consumers.
“Our mission is to help create a sustainable society where future generations will not have to worry about food security and food safety,” Price told the Tech Insider. “This means that we will have to make it affordable for everyone and begin to grow staple crops and plant protein to make a real difference.”
Larger versions of Mini Farms
In addition, Spread is working on new sensors that will provide data regarding the specific types of crops that are being grown. Sensors will alert human attendants if a crop is not growing properly, which will allow for adjustments to growing techniques for better results.
As you might have expected, the use of farm robots will curtail some human jobs – but the farms may also create new, better-paying and more interesting jobs for people, most likely at the information technology end of the operation. The company’s human farmers, for instance, will be able to dedicate more time to the development of other sustainable farming methods, and figuring out how to grow higher quality fruits and veggies.
Spread says it hopes to build similar robot farms around the world. Desert regions and small nations without much farmland would certainly benefit from Spread’s technology.
For smaller operations – such as homesteading, and for others who are trying to be more self-reliant – Food Rising Mini Farm grow boxes use low technology and no electricity, to grow delicious, nutritious food, all year long.