Iron Ox Launches Grover, an All-New Autonomous Mobile Robot
Iron Ox, a farming innovation company with deep expertise in plant science, robotics and artificial intelligence, is launching a first-of-its kind mobile support robot named Grover.
Grover is not your average farmer. It can lift more than 1,000 pounds and assists in the monitoring, watering and harvesting of a wide variety of crops, from leafy greens to strawberries.
Grover is a key component of Iron Ox’s broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system that optimizes plant yield, reduces growth cycle time and maximizes crop quality. The result is delicious, nutritious, locally sourced fruits and vegetables that currently cost about the same as produce from conventional farms, with substantially lower environmental impacts.
“We are applying technology to minimize the amount of land, water and energy needed to nourish a growing population,” said Brandon Alexander, who grew up picking cotton, potatoes and peanuts on his family’s farm in Texas, then became a software engineer who worked on drones and other projects at Google and elsewhere. “Our short-term goal is to mitigate the impact of climate change on the agriculture system. And we won’t stop until we achieve our long-term mission of making the produce sector carbon negative.”
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Growth + Versatility = Grover
Grover is the result of Iron Ox’s industry-shaping team of roboticists, plant scientists, and engineers. The San Carlos, California based startup uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, and robotics to grow more with less, leading to less food waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Grover allows Iron Ox to change crops at a moment’s notice to meet the needs of nearby grocery stores that, for instance, experience a spike in demand for specific seasonal or even out-of-season produce.
Grover makes the massive scale of Iron Ox’s facilities possible. Hygienic, durable, and sleek, Grover employs a differential drive system, multiple LiDAR systems, upward and forward-facing camera systems. Grover is additionally equipped with a lift system to autonomously move 1,000-pound, 6-by-6-foot modules of hydroponically fed plants throughout the greenhouse. Modules are regularly transported by Grover to a scanning booth for inspection and based on the results, they are taken for additional water, nutrients or harvesting.
“Designing and building Gover was a complex multi-year project, solving for many challenges in hardware, software, autonomy and mobility. We assembled a world class team to achieve this,” said Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox Senior Vice President of Engineering. “Our goal is to make Iron Ox a center for excellence in agriculture with a core competence in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
Iron Ox Plows Through to Hyper Growth Mode
Iron Ox operates farms in Northern California and earlier this year broke ground on the 535,000 square-foot indoor farm in Lockhart, Texas.
Iron Ox produce can be found throughout California at Whole Foods Markets and at San Francisco Bay Area markets such as Bianchini’s and Mollie Stone’s. Sales outside of California are expected to begin by the holidays with the first harvest from the new Texas facility.
This fall, Iron Ox announced a $53 million “Series C” funding round led by new investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an investment group backed by many of the world’s top business leaders and dedicated to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Iron Ox is using its latest funding round to expand its intellectual property portfolio in robotics and artificial intelligence. The company is accelerating its efforts to hire plant scientists, engineers, greenhouse operators and roboticists to join their dynamic team.
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