Ocado seeks patent for robo farmers

Written by NTN staff

Online supermarket Ocado has filed for a European patent around the concept of “vertical farming” with robots maintaining a variety of tasks.

Ocado believes this method of will be cheaper, more efficient, higher-yielding and need fewer people than traditional methods. Produce would be grown in trays inside stacked boxes tended by wheeled, WiFi-connected robo-pickers on rails, which winch up the trays when the produce is ripe and dispatch them to another robot for picking and packing. Robots would also be used for planting, pruning and spraying pesticides.

The patent shows two levels of about 300 growing containers, each about 1m wide by 1.4m high, which would be ¬supplied with water, fertiliser, light and heat. The concept would do away with large areas of land normally needed for crops such as herbs.

The patent also suggests that in addition to fruits and vegetables, Ocado’s system could battery-farm living organisms such as poultry and fish.

The idea is based on an automated system used in Ocado’s warehouses.