Technology 3 min read

Robot Farming: Iron Ox Sells First Batch of Automated Produce

Iron Ox, a California-based farming startup, wants to bring robot farming to the next level. But, is the agricultural industry ready for this change?

Image via Iron Ox

Image via Iron Ox

In October 2018, Iron Ox introduced its robot farming program to automate the human-intensive work of agriculture. Five months later, the startup is already reaping the fruit of its robotic labor.

Several industries are using robotics and AI to change the way they work, and agriculture is no different. But first, the companies had to be sure a market exists for what they’re growing.

A startup company, Iron Ox, took the first step by announcing that it’s selling robot-grown leafy greens in California.

Buyers can now choose from its three varieties of greens that are available at the San Carlos branch of the Bianchini’s Market – a grocery store that offers local and organic produce.

Robot Farming For Growing Greens

Thanks to a combination of robotic picking arms, self-driving porters, and hydroponic vats, Iron Ox could utilize robotic farming in growing vegetables.

However, the process is not entirely automated. Humans were still present for a lot of work. From planting the seedling to packaging the plant for the market, laborers were still needed for the operation to be successful.

The robots were just there to tend to the growing plants.

With that said, news of Iron Ox selling its produce is still a big deal.

Aside from showing the advantages of the semi-automated form of agriculture, it also serves as a groundwork for future robot farming companies.

Since robot farms have a small physical footprint, they can be located closer to the customer. Not only does this reduce the distance of food travel, but it also cuts the transportation cost.

For example, Iron Ox claims that the greens it produces for Bianchini travel only 0.6 miles to get to its destination. That’s half the distance that a typical head of lettuce has to go.

On the flip side, the scale of the robot farm operation is limited. As a result, the company can only sell just three varieties of leafy greens and deliver them once a week.

The Cost of Robot-Grown Vegetables

While the prices are not exorbitant, most people won’t consider them cheap either.

For instance, four heads of baby lettuce will go for $4.99. At Whole Foods, the same quantity of lettuce head costs about $2 less, while Walmart seeks an 11-ounce box of greens for less than $5.

One essential question comes to mind when you think of robotic farming; will it ever become mainstream?

According to experts, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Humans are still significantly cheaper than robots. As such, we have to depend on them for a vast majority of farming.

While Iron Ox’s vegetables have the advantage of traveling fewer miles, experts believe that it’s more of a boutique product than a mainstream alternative.

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

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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