The Rise of the Robot Farmer

What does the future of farming look like? If Japanese lettuce production company, Spread, has anything to do about it, it’s going to involve robots.

Spread has apparently made the world’s first farm that is reliant on robots, and these robots can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce every single day.

The indoor vegetable factory is essentially run by machines that plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvesting. It is located in Kyoto, Japan.

Spread’s system also follows today’s growing agricultural trend of vertical farming, where farmers can grow crops indoors on stacked racks, relying on LED light instead of natural sunlight. This helps increase the efficiency of the farming process, lowers waste production significantly, and eliminates runoff from pesticides and herbicides.

The farmers also don't have to worry about things like bad weather or fret so much over crop disease.

The vertical farm at Spread. Image Credit: Spread
The Vegetable Factory

"The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history," J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread, tells Tech Insider. "With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops."

The Vegetable Factory is poised to be an upgrade to Spread’s already existing indoor farm, the Kameoka Plant, which already produced about 21,000 heads of lettuce per day and operates with a small staff of humans.

Switching to the company’s new automated machines will allow the farm to produce more lettuce, lower labor costs by 50%, reduce energy use by 30%, and recycle an amazing 98% of water. This will help the farm increase in revenue and resources which could cut costs.

In addition, Spread is working on developing sensors that will track and generate data on how specific types of crops grow, making the farming process more efficient and precise. And while it will mean that technology will take away jobs from humans, it will pave the way for farmers to lend their skill towards developing more sustainable farming methods and produce better quality vegetables.

"Our mission is to help create a sustainable society where future generations will not have to worry about food security and food safety," Price says. "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."

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