First ever robot farm opens in Japan

A concept of the Spread automated Vegetable Factory. Image courtesy of Spread.
A concept of the Spread automated Vegetable Factory. Image courtesy of Spread.

The world’s first fully automated vegetable farm has been announced in Japan.

Built by an agriculture technology company called Spread, the farm will be located in the Kansai Science City in Kyoto.

The automated farm, which Spread calls a ‘Vegetable Factory’, will be able to produce approximately 30,000 heads of lettuce per day and up to 10 million heads per year.

 

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In order to achieve this, every single function of the farm has been automated, with the single exception of initial seed planting.

By using this level of full automation, the company claims that it is able to reduce the cost of labour used in the farm by 50 percent.

The farm is laid out in a vertical arrangement which makes heavy use of artificial lighting to provide optimal growing conditions for crops. This design also makes use of energy efficient LED lights and a unique air conditioning system in order to further save costs.

Spread claims that their new Vegetable Factory has double the productivity when compared to an earlier, less automated predecessor also built in Kyoto.

One of the major drivers for pioneering automated farm technology is the company’s desire to reduce water consumption.

“There are water and food shortages due to extreme weather events accompanied by the increasing global population. Amid these problems, Spread […] has been working to lay the foundation for a more secure and sustainable society,” explained the company in a press release.

So efficient are the new robotic systems which control the farm that Spread claims they can recycle 98 percent of the water used in plant cultivation. Should this indeed be possible, the benefits to arid countries could be immense.

The reduction in required labour also could be a boon to aging societies like Japan which are facing a worker shortage into the future.

All up the new farm will cost approximately 1.6bn yen ($13.4m) to 2bn yen ($16.7m) including R&D outlays.

Construction of the farm will begin in spring this year, and it is planned to be fully operational by 2017.