It’s no secret that the Japanese love their robots. Crude yet lovable mechanical friends, such as Honda’s friendly ASIMO, are common features inside schools and museums. And, although good for a bit of pre-programmed information and maybe even a little dance, they are typically ornamental. However, on the commercial side of things, robotics is thriving in Japan and, as one company recently announced, will be finding use in some unexpected places.
The Japanese vegetable company Spread recently announced that they will use robots to produce lettuce in their indoor farm in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, largely as a response to Japan’s dwindling agricultural labor force. The company currently produces 21,000 heads of lettuce a day and production is expected to significantly increase with the help of their new technology, which will be operational by mid-2017.
Unfortunately, the robots will not be the walking and talking android units we’ve all come to love—sorry, ASIMO—but rather mechanical arms similar to those you might find on a car assembly line. Still, the move is a significant step forward for the advancement of robotics in the workforce, and perhaps a taste of things to come. All that remains is the question: “Do androids dream of electric lettuce?”