Technology 3 min read

Robotic Farming is Coming Sooner Than You Think

Image via Iron Ox

Image via Iron Ox

Today, conventional farming is facing new challenges that traditional practices can’t overcome, such as respect to the environment, energy and water usage, and the consistent no-compromise quantity/quality rapport.

From one hand, farms need to increase their production levels to meet the growing demand for food. From the other, they’re asked to reduce the impact of their intensive activities on health and their footprint on the environment.

To produce more food faster, with less resources and waste, several startups are resorting to robotics, computer vision, sensors, data, and next-gen farming solutions.

One such startup is the California-based Iron Ox, Inc. that produces organic crops with the help of robotic workers.

Robotic Farming From Seed to Harvest

Launched last October, Iron Ox has set itself a mission of rethinking farming through an innovative farming approach based on robots.

Iron Ox has developed a robotic system that ensures optimum growing conditions for the crop seeds until they’re ripe for harvest, with little intervention possible from humans.

As the first U.S. robotic farm, Iron Ox earns its title because all the heavy lifting in the farm is handled by automated machines that take care of everything, from planting the seedlings to harvesting the crop.

The system consists of Angus, a robotic wheeled platform that lifts containers filled with seedlings then hands them over to another arm-like robot, fitted with cameras, which handles the containers carefully with its gripping fingers.

Iron Ox says its robotic farming system adopts an approach “that uses less energy than other modern forms of farming. Our hydroponic growing system uses 90% less water over traditional farming while growing 30 times the amount of crops per acre of land.”

Bianchini’s Market is a family-owned grocery store for specialty and organic produce. The shelves of its branch at San Carlos, San Francisco, now feature a selection of three leafy greens grown by Iron Ox robots: Genovese basil, red-veined sorrel and baby head lettuce.

With Iron Ox’ leafy greens on Bianchini’s shelves, California could be in for an approaching storm of robot-reared produce hitting the marketplace in the next few years.

While it is the first to launch a business, Iron Ox isn’t the only robotic farming company in the area. Robotic apple pickers, robotic milkersweed-spraying drones, and many other automated farming solutions all help the farming industry face the severe labor shortage.

The U.S. economy has never seen such labor shortages, but the agricultural industry is one of the most severely hit. According to a California Farm Bureau survey (via CNBC) 70% or more of California farmers have experienced more trouble hiring in the last two years, and 56% of them started deploying robotic systems in the past five years to fill in for human workers.

Read More: Hydroponic Farming: Why the Future of Food is Indoors

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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