A farm, entirely run by robots!

A farm, entirely run by robots!
Highlights

Startup Iron Ox has successfully created a fully autonomous farm in San Carlos, CaliforniaIron Ox is the first to fully automate the growing process and completely design its system around the robots capabilities The hydroponic indoor farm relies on two robots to plant, care for and harvest produce

Start-up Iron Ox has successfully created a fully autonomous farm in San Carlos, California. Iron Ox is the first to fully automate the growing process and completely design its system around the robot's capabilities. The hydroponic indoor farm relies on two robots to plant, care for and harvest produce.

Co-founder and CEO Brandon Alexander said, “The main idea behind the startup was to double the food production for the next thirty years to feed the growing population, we felt there needs to be a radical change,”

For Iron Ox, the radical change started with its two robots. This 1,000 pounds robot which is about the size of a car navigates autonomously. It moves trays of plants to the processing area then a robotic arm moves plants from one tray to another. It just not only picks up but also sorts the plants based on their life cycle to optimize space. Baby plants are grouped together; mature plants are planted farther apart.

Iron Ox Head of Growing, Nicole Bergelin explained, “By dividing the plant's life cycle into three main sections, we are able to optimize the density of the farm and each stage of the plant’s life it requires different spacing and inputs like light and fertilizers.”

It also picks up the trays of plants and transports them around the greenhouse. A second machine, a robotic arm, is responsible for all the fine manipulation tasks, like seeding and transplanting.

He claimed,” Iron Ox is able to do the equivalent of 30 acres of outdoor farming in just a single acre on its robotic farm. The company wants to build more small farms near urban centres so that the produce is fresher upon arrival.”

"Right now fresh produce really isn't all that fresh. It's travelling on average 2,000 miles from farm to grocery store, which means a lot of people are eating week-old lettuce or strawberries, "Alexander explained.

At Iron Ox, the robots with the help of machine learning and AI detect pests and diseases. They can remove infected plants before the problem spreads and get worse.

Co-founder and CTO Jon Binney explained. "So it's not just that the robots can move plants around and very efficiently, it's also that they can help you avoid ever having a plant go bad,"

"One of the great things about the robots is that they don't really get tired and they don't really care what hours they work. And so as long as they've got juice in the batteries, they can keep going," Binney told.

Though Iron Ox use LED lights to grow its produce, in the future it hopes to build natural-light greenhouses to take advantage of the sun's free energy. Eventually, the company aims to make its non-GMO and pesticide-free produce as cheap as traditional agriculture.

Primarily, Iron Ox is only growing leafy greens and herbs, though it plans to expand into other crops, like tomatoes, in the coming years. The company plans to begin selling its products later this year. Till date, Iron Ox has raised $6 million in seed funding, led by Eniac Ventures.

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