One of the biggest challenges agriculture faces today is that young people don’t want to do it. Most farmers these days are in their 50s, and even though a few mustachioed hipsters have left the comfortable confines of their Bushwick lofts to get back to the earth, for the average youngster, farming isn’t as hip as creating an app or being an EDM DJ or whatever the other cool jobs are out there.
So here’s a novel solution: Let robots do our farming. A company from Japan called Spread is working on opening a completely automated indoor farm near Kyoto by 2017. Somewhat humorously referred to as a “vegetable factory,” the company claims the facility could harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce in a single day, with an output of 10 million heads of lettuce a year, all while being the first ever farm to require no actual farmers. According to Modern Farmer, “robots will eventually handle the entire process, including planting seeds, germinating the seeds, transplanting them into larger beds, growing the new vegetable, and harvesting.”
The Wall Street Journal says the lettuce will initially be sold in Japan for about the same price as normal lettuce, but the prices would probably eventually be cheaper. However, robot lettuce is about more than price. “There are several reasons vegetable factories will be needed in the future in order to create a sustainable society,” Spread’s Kiyoka Morita said to Fast Company. Indoor farms, which Spread has been opening since 2006, use less water and recycle more of what they do use. They also eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicide,s since the whole process works within a closed system.
Wait, a burgeoning technology industry that stresses sustainability? Now, that’s a job I could see a teenager taking interest in. Maybe letting robots do our farming is the way to make it cool again.