By 2017, the Japanese firm Spread hopes to open the world’s first fully robotic farm. This is great news for the environment and the company's profits, provided the artificially intelligent machine uprising doesn't happen.
They plan to start building the factory in Kizugawa, Kyoto during spring 2016 and hope it’ll be up and running by summer 2017. The farm will be a 4,800 square meter (52,000 square foot) indoor complex which will cost an estimated 2 billion yen ($16.6 million, £10.8 million) to build and develop.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Spread is fine-tuning the technology to handle the seeding process and still requires humans to be sure the lettuce seeds have germinated. Other than that, the technology is in place for fully automated raising of the seedlings, transplanting them into a larger bed, nurturing and harvesting.
Image credit: Spread
The Kyoto-based firm Spread already produces 21,000 heads of lettuce every day in farms using artificial lighting. After their farms get their robotic revamp, they estimate they will produce 30,000 heads a day.
Fast Company reports that the switch to robot assistance will reduce labor costs by 50%. However, the move to fully automate their farms does not just come to bolster their bank balances, but also to help the environment. The farm will recycle 98% of water used for cultivation. It will be made super-efficient through "cultivation environment control technology" which will use computers to regulate and stabilize all the conditions such as lighting, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and water quality. Because the farm is indoors, there is also no need for harmful pesticides or insecticides.
The farm will also be more hygienic thanks to removing microbe-laden humans from the process. Speaking to Fast Company, a representative of Spread said that, "Full automation also reduces the crops' exposure to human contact during cultivation, further reducing the risk of contamination, and increasing the hygienic levels in the area."