Lettuce-Harvesting Robots: The Farmers of the Future?
The future is now, and it’s in the form of lettuce-harvesting robots. Japanese lettuce production company Spread is creating the world’s first farm manned entirely by robots, according to Tech Insider. The farm, which is set to open in 2017, is an upgrade to the company’s existing indoor farm, which currently produces about 21,000 heads of lettuce per day with the help of robots and a small staff.
The machines will take the form of conveyer belts equipped with custom-made robotic arms, which will be able to plant seeds, water plants, and trim lettuce heads after harvest. J.J. Price, a spokesperson at Spread, tells Tech Insider, “The use of machines and technology has been improving agriculture in this way throughout human history. With the introduction of plant factories and their controlled environment, we are now able to provide the ideal environment for the crops.”
The farm will employ vertical farming, in which crops are grown indoors on racks stacked on top of each other, with LED light instead of natural sunlight. This practice increases production, reduces waste, and eliminates runoff from pesticides and herbicides. The automation technology at the new farm will reduce labor costs by 50 percent, cut energy use by 30 percent, and recycle 98 percent of the water needed to grow the crops.
Price says, “Our mission is to help create a sustainable society where future generations will not have to worry about food security and food safety. 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.” Spread hopes to build similar robot farms around the world.