An interesting technological breakthrough is allowing robots to run a farm and produce more food than ever before.
Spread is the name of a Japanese company that wants to develop an agricultural farm that will be run by industrial robots.
According to company spokesman J.J Price, farming in the future will feature robots as the main workforce thereby reducing the reliance on human labor in agriculture. It was announced that the Kyoto-based firm will start the operation the robot farm in the middle of next year and that robots will be in charge of every step involved in the farming process, including harvesting of the crops and also the watering of the seedling. The only human input will be the planting operation of the farm.
When they fully start the operation, Spread said that they will be producing 30,000 lettuce heads on a daily basis and this is expected to go up to 500,000 in 5 years time. The farm measures 47,300 square feet and is designed in such a way that it will have a floor to ceiling structure where the lettuce will be grown.
“The seeds will still be planted by humans, but every other step, from the transplanting of young seedlings to larger spaces as they grow to harvesting the lettuces, will be done automatically,” Price said.
“Our new farm could become a model for other farms, but our aim is not to replace human farmers, but to develop a system where humans and machines work together. We want to generate interest in farming, particularly among young people,” he added.
Koji Morisada, one of the company officials said that the robots are not humanoid in shape, but are more like conveyor belts equipped with arms. Morisada also noted that with the introduction of robot farming, the personnel cost will be cut in half, and expenses on energy will be reduced by one-third. The produce from the farm will be free of pesticides and the lettuce will be more nutritious than lettuce grown on other farms.
This idea of robots farming was brought about by the aging workforce of Japan, which has caused a shortage of labor in the country, and this technological advancement will bridge the labor gap effectively. The new farms will follow the current trend of vertical farming whereby crops are grown indoors with the help of LED light since there will not be direct sunlight.
In Jackson, Wyoming, a company called Vertical Harvest recently began building a three-story vertical greenhouse.
In addition to providing fresh tomatoes and greens to the local area, the vertical farm will also focus on employing people who have developmental disabilities and have trouble finding jobs elsewhere.
Another project designed by entrepreneurs from Boston will allow their customers to build vertical gardens in pre-fitted shipping containers that are nearly ready for growing. However, these US-based projects will be run by humans, not robots, although they will be employing some of the same techniques.