January 22, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra
I dislike the industrialization of food. I dislike the processes that so much of our food undergoes before reaching our mouths. I dislike how many chemicals it’s treated with, how far it travels, how wasteful of land, water and food, how dirty it is, and how it’s financed. The world, however, is crowded and hungry, and only getting more so as time goes on. Advances in agriculture and food processing have enabled a rapid population expansion and, while making over-indulgence of artificial and nutrient-void foods more possible in the developed world, is also addressing the needs of the malnourished and underfed developing world. Hence, something of a double-edged sword. Damn.
What if, however, there were a way to maintain all the benefits of scaled-up, modern farming (minimizing inputs, maximizing outputs) while simultaneously reducing the costs and the risks that our agricultural industries have brought (chemical treatment, travel, pollution, waste, waste and waste…)? I dream of such pie-in-the-sky possibilities…
Wake up! It’s happening. It would seem as though I’m not the only one who thinks that the way we feed ourselves needs to be reassessed and restructured to account for the immense new capabilities that technological advancement has afforded us. It’s time for farming to come into the 21st Century with an eye on more than the Profit/Loss balance sheets. It’s time to use new technology to do the hard work of old-school agriculture. Call in the robots!
First Fruit Farms is developing a fully sustainable, robot-operated farming system, automating the art and science of traditional (otherwise labor-intensive) agriculture.
This, to me, is an amazing concept. It’s a paradigm shift. Not only does it allow for communities to feed themselves locally using renewable resources, it does so while minimizing inputs (human labor, land, water, chemicals, transport), saving money, preserving natural resources, preserving nutritional value and increasing the efficiency of a farmer! Could you ask for anything better than that?
I’m backing this project hard, and I hope you’ll join me. First Fruit Farms is delivering what could be regarded as cutting-edge DIY technology – making the plans for their automated equipment available so that anyone with the resources could replicate (and/or improve upon) their systems. They’ve also pledged 10% of their crop of vegetables to the Manna Food Bank, and are calling upon others to do the same for food banks around the nation. All in all, this project impresses me on many levels, not least of which is my love for robots.