It is an 8,000-square-foot indoor hydroponic farm that can grow leafy greens at about 26,000 heads a year.
Iron Ox has opened its first production facility in San Carlos, CA right outside of San Francisco. According to Technology Review, that’s the production level of a typical outdoor farm is 40,000 square feet.
The company’s vision is a fully autonomous farm where software and robotics fill the place of human agricultural workers – which these days due to poor wages, lousy working conditions and an unstable immigration situation, is much needed.
The company’s 15 human employees share their work space with robots who quietly go about the business of tending rows and rows of the leafy greens. Cofounder Brandon Alexander says, “We are a farm and will always be a farm.”
The farm’s robots consists of a series of robotic arms and movers. The arms individually pluck the plants from their hydroponic trays and transfer them to new trays as they increase in size, maximizing their health and output—a luxury most outdoor farms don’t have. Big white mechanical movers carry the 800-pound water-filled trays around the facility.
Iron Ox has developed software—called “The Brain”—to all the robotics to collaborate; The Brain keeps watch over the farm, monitors inputs including nitrogen levels, temperature, and robot location.
Alexander sees Iron Ox as solving two problems in one: the shortage of agricultural workers and the distances that fresh produce currently has to be shipped. He believes that by making it possible to grow crops close to urban areas without paying city-level salaries, the automated farms will enable stores to chose vegetables fresher than those that had to travel thousands of miles to get there.