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  • (electronic music)

  • It might look like we're inside a spaceship,

  • but this is actually a farm.

  • (buzzing)

  • The crops here are grown mostly by machines

  • with the help of just a few humans, like this woman.

  • Her life offers an early peek at a new kind of farming.

  • It's a promising twist to an ancient career,

  • but only if the robots don't replace her altogether.

  • (upbeat music)

  • As technology replaces old jobs,

  • it's also creating new ones.

  • I'm Aki Ito, and I'm here to

  • show you the jobs of the future.

  • (upbeat music)

  • My name is Katie Morich, and I'm a vertical farmer.

  • Katie works for a three year old

  • startup called Bowery.

  • (intercom buzzes)

  • Its farm is here, in this industrial park in New Jersey.

  • How are you?

  • It's the last place you'd

  • expect to find any sign of life.

  • We take extra precaution to make sure we're

  • not bringing any contaminants into the farm,

  • so we're gonna wear hairnets, and then this

  • is just gonna cover all your street clothes.

  • Katie wears a clean uniform every day.

  • Visitors like me are handed a non-negotiable jumpsuit.

  • Alright.

  • Step inside and you'll see a cross

  • between a factory and a lab.

  • (shimmering notes)

  • Trays of produce are vertically stacked to save space,

  • and each of them is given just the right amount of

  • light, water and nutrients at the

  • optimal temperature and humidity.

  • It's an incredible level of precision,

  • which is why Katie can grow more faster with

  • less water and no pesticides.

  • (shimmering notes)

  • It's also what let's her grow things that

  • taste like nothing you've ever had before.

  • What's this?

  • This is the sorrel.

  • Mmm.

  • That tastes like candy apple.

  • Whoa! That's good, right?

  • It's so sour. I know.

  • The majority of this facility is automated.

  • (electronic notes)

  • The data is collected by sensors

  • and a computer controls growing conditions for the crops.

  • For the things that the machines can't do yet,

  • Katie and her fellow human farmers fill in,

  • and even those tasks are dictated by

  • the software that runs this whole operation.

  • It lets me know what I have to do,

  • what time I should be doing it by,

  • and that's how I get my day done.

  • Do you ever, like, rebel against the computer's orders?

  • Uh, once in a while, if we're trying to do

  • a little experiment of our own, we'll be like,

  • okay, is the system telling us the correct things?

  • Most of the time it is.

  • All the time it's right. (laughs)

  • After a full day at the farm,

  • Katie likes to bring home samples to her husband, Jase,

  • (blender whirrs) and her cat, Burt.

  • (blender stops)

  • Salt, pepper?

  • Maybe a little more... Garlic?

  • On the menu are two items from Katie's farm.

  • Basil, for pesto pasta.

  • That's so good.

  • And mixed greens for a salad.

  • I'm terrified, everyone's judging.

  • Cheers, guys.

  • Cheers. Cheers.

  • (bottles clink)

  • Katie fell in love with environmental

  • science in college, but after graduating

  • she struggled to find a full-time career in the field.

  • Jase had to deal with me a lot (laughs),

  • you know, coming home to me crying

  • and trying to figure out if I'm making the right decisions.

  • And then, somehow, online, Bowery popped up.

  • She told me about this job, like, Bowery Farming,

  • it's like an indoor, vertical farm, and I was like,

  • alright, this sounds like total BS.

  • So, I took my work truck and I said, "You know,

  • let me swing around and see what this is all about."

  • So I drove up to it,

  • doesn't look like there's a farm in there at all.

  • So I called her and I was like, "Listen, I know you're

  • psyched about this job, but it seems super sketchy."

  • But I figured I'd go and check it out for myself

  • and I pulled up and it was exactly as how he described,

  • but I gave it a shot.

  • And so in 2017, Katie joined Bowery.

  • She became employee number nine.

  • (door shuts)

  • This is really my first real, full-time, big-girl job.

  • (indistinct chatter)

  • And it was a little intimidating at first,

  • coming into this company with people that have like,

  • their PHD and I don't necessarily have that background,

  • so I constantly doubted myself when I

  • first started at Bowery.

  • I wasn't worried about her at all, you know.

  • She said to us, "Can I do this?"

  • And I used to tell her to have a little faith in herself.

  • Katie grew up in a typical New Jersey suburb

  • with two working parents.

  • They've tried to stay away from putting too much pressure

  • on their only child.

  • When we heard about what she was doing and

  • realized that this is something that didn't exist

  • when we were younger and I thought back from my generation,

  • you know, PC's came out when I started working

  • and my parents probably would've said I was crazy

  • if I went into an IT field at the time,

  • but now look what happened.

  • So, it's not a good idea for us to try to tell her

  • what to do because it's a different world.

  • (beeping)

  • Bowery is backed by some of

  • Silicon Valley's top investors.

  • And with almost $30 million dollars of funding,

  • the startup is expanding fast.

  • And in May, after all that time she spent doubting herself,

  • Katie got promoted to lead a team of her own farmers.

  • The produce she grows supplies a few nearby grocery stores

  • as well as this restaurant in Manhattan.

  • (pan sizzles)

  • It's less than 10 miles away from the Bowery farm.

  • What do you think?

  • It's delicious! (both laugh)

  • You made that.

  • It's like, crazy to see stuff I grew on a plate.

  • Alright, let me get some of...

  • But for Katie, it's not just about making

  • premium vegetables for people who can afford them.

  • I want people to have the purest produce imaginable,

  • and I want that to be readily available to anybody.

  • (electronic music)

  • The world's population is set to reach

  • 9.8 billion people by 2050.

  • Two-thirds will live in cities.

  • And we're gonna need all kinds of new technology

  • to sustainably feed everyone.

  • The key to making that food affordable

  • is to continue to make more with fewer farmers.

  • But no matter how high-tech all this gets,

  • Katie thinks there will still be a place for her.

  • I just think there's something about the

  • human mind that you can't really replicate.

  • So I think we could still work closely with technology,

  • but I still think it's nice to have a human there.

  • It'll also be pretty lonely for the robots

  • if they don't have anybody to talk to. (laughs)

  • (beeping)

(electronic music)

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The High-Tech Vertical Farmer

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/07
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