Robotics farming company Iron Ox today announced the close of a $20 million funding round. The funding will be used to open additional robotic growing facilities in California and other parts of the U.S., according to company cofounder and CEO Brandon Alexander. The funding will also be used to hire additional machine learning and robotics experts as well as growers and scientists who work with plants.
“We’re now competing on price with field farms, but we think we can do even better and take this to more people,” he said.
Iron Ox employs a 1,000-pound mobile transport system roughly the size of a car to move trays of growing vegetables and tend to plants using a robotic grasper while computer vision systems monitor the plant growth cycle. The semi-autonomous system still relies on humans for a part of its seeding, pruning, and inspection process, Alexander said, but the goal is for Iron Ox to someday be fully autonomous.
While startups like Bowery practice indoor vertical farming in urban facilities near New York and Baltimore, Iron Ox has turned its focus toward greenhouse farming since the company was founded in 2015 as a way to lower energy costs. Earlier this year, Iron Ox opened its first greenhouse, a 10,000-square foot facility in Gilroy, California, the company’s second location. Iron Ox currently provides produce to 15 Whole Foods stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.