In the Caribbean, farming isn’t where it once was. As a result, exportation and self sufficiency has certainly suffered. Now more than ever, Trinidad and Tobago’s food import bill proves that. In the United States, a company by the name of Iron Ox which was founded by Brandon Alexander and Jon Binney, has come up with an idea to satisfy the growing need for farm produce, globally. They’ve developed the first fully autonomous robot farm in San Carlos, California. They’ve been using two robots and a cloud-based “brain” to grow lettuce, tomatoes, basil and more in a hydroponic system.
The US company, which started in 2015, is now growing 8,000 square feet of produce, and plans to begin selling to chefs and restaurants later this year, then local grocery stores in 2019. Eventually, the startup wants to open farms across the the United States, offering local produce year-round.
Alexander, speaking with Smithsonian.com said one of the major issues facing the agriculture sector, globally, is labor scarcity. “The average age of a farmer is 58 years old. We’re finding that newer generations, not just in the United States but across the globe, are not taking up agriculture. There’s a multibillion-dollar loss right now because there’s not enough people to do the work,” he said.
Greenhouses, indoor farms, they can help grow locally, but they’re still very labor-intensive processes. What we tried to do was reimagine the farm, taking all the learning from the past, but also combining it with state-of-the-art robotics and machine learning. To really redesign the process around robotics. Hydroponics allows us to grow year round, but the robotics allows us to constantly monitor our produce for a more consistent product. So, it shouldn’t matter what time of the year, it should always be this peak quality produce, as if it was—and it will be—harvested that morning. – Brandon Alexander
Take a look at their promotional video below and feel free to share your thoughts on this process, with us, in the comments section.