The future of food production 食物生產的未來

Will robots grow our food in the future? We explore how machines are replacing farmers.

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隨著新型機械不斷地被發明,人們對勞動密集型耕作方式的依賴在逐日減少。然而,以下這一景象會成為現實嗎?農民不再需要下地幹活,機器人會承包所有的工作。這是英國及世界各地的科學家們正在嘗試的一個想法。

課文內容

Vocabulary: technology 詞彙: 科技

Imagine a future where all farming is done by machine, and humans never set foot in the fields. 

No, it’s not science fiction. In Shropshire in the UK, engineers in the Hands Free Hectare project are developing automated tractors and fleets of drones to grow and harvest crops. 

And their experiment is not alone: agricultural robotics is a booming sector. Investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates the market will be worth $240bn over the next five years. 

One reason why the sector is on the up is that global demand for food is rapidly increasing. The World Bank estimates we will need to produce 50% more food by 2050 if the planet’s population continues to grow at its current speed. Add to this to the forecast that yields will decrease by over a quarter due to climate change, and the situation looks serious.

Could futuristic farming provide the answer?

One company in Japan believes so. The firm Spread has dispensed with farming on land altogether, and instead grows vegetables on stacks of trays indoors in an automated factory.

“In countries like Japan, where land is actually a very scarce resource, it makes more sense to stack your production, just like a skyscraper,” says JJ Price, Spread’s global marketing manager.

Mr Price told the BBC that this method of vertical farming not only reduces costs by 50%, but it is also greener. LED lights cut energy bills by a third, and 98% of water can be recycled. By growing crops close to where people consume them, transport costs and emissions are also minimised, he says. They hope to be producing 30,000 lettuces per day next year.

And where will we buy this futuristic food? Perhaps in shops with no staff? Amazon has recently launched its first Amazon Go store in the US, which has no checkouts. Customers simply pick their items from the shelves, and technology does the rest.

All this begs the question: if everything is automated, what jobs will people do? The mechanisation of farming means fewer and fewer people work the land. From 1950 to 2010, agricultural labourers have decreased from 81% to 48.2% of the workforce in developing countries, and from 35% to 4.2% in developed countries, according to the International Labour Organization. It’s a trend that looks set to continue.

詞彙表

to set foot (in) 去(某處)
automated 自動化的
fleet 艦隊、船隊
robotics 機器人技術
sector 行業,領域
on the up 蒸蒸日上的,穩步上升的
forecast (對形勢的)預測
yield (農作物的)產量,常作複數
to dispense with 免去,不再使用
stack 疊
LED lights 發光二極管照明技術
emission (氣、熱、光等)排放物
checkout 收銀處,付款台
to beg the question 引人發問
mechanisation 機械化
workforce 勞動人口

測驗與練習

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. Why does Spread think vertical farming makes particular sense in Japan?  

2. What is likely to happen to the agricultural workforce in the future?    

3. Which two factors do the World Bank think will put pressure on food production?    

4.Which word means: ‘more environmentally friendly’?    

5. True or false: Goldman Sachs predicts the market for automated tractors will be worth $240 billion in five years.

2. 請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. Farming has become increasingly _________ over the years. 

machination                      mechanisation                    machine                       mechanised

2. I’ve never _________ in a shopping mall. I buy everything in local markets. 

set my foot                       set foot                              set feet                        set my feet      

3. Mark __________. He’s just got a job at a top bank. 

is on the up                    on the up                              day day up                   went up

4. I decided _________ our second car. One’s enough for my family.

dispense with                 dispense                             to dispense                  to dispense with

5. Our _________ shrunk over the last ten years.

employees have             workforce has                      workforce have            employee have

答案

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. Why does Spread think vertical farming makes particular sense in Japan?
Spread believes vertical farming makes particular sense because there is so little land available for farming in Japan. 

2. What is likely to happen to the agricultural workforce in the future?
There are likely to be fewer people working in farming in the future. The workforce will get smaller.    

3. Which two factors do the World Bank think will put pressure on food production?
The World Bank thinks climate change and population growth will put pressure on farming to become more productive.    

4.Which word means: ‘more environmentally friendly’?
Greener.    

5. True or false: Goldman Sachs predicts the market for automated tractors will be worth $240 billion in five years.
False. Goldman Sachs estimates the market for agricultural robotics will be worth $240 billion over five years.

2. 請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. Farming has become increasingly mechanised over the years.

2. I’ve never set foot in a shopping mall. I buy everything in local markets.

3. Mark is on the up. He’s just got a job at a top bank.

4. I decided to dispense with our second car. One’s enough for my family.

5. Our workforce has shrunk over the last ten years.

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