This Iron Ox has your veggies!

The agriculture start-up hopes to be an autonomous farming solution for the future
iron ox Angus mover This is Angus, the 1,000-pound mover that is half of Iron Ox's robot crew. (Iron Ox)

As our world's population continues to grow, it is clear that we will need more of a lot of things. Housing. Water. Energy. And right up there alongside these things? Food.

Food shortages are sadly already a regular occurrence in certain parts of the world. And experts warn that without serious innovation, our food supplies in even the richest countries could run low in the future. So what is the solution? Would you believe that it's ... robots?

You always say it's robots!

iron ox Transplanter_pick_closeup_2

This robot grabs plants and moves them to make sure that they don't crowd each other as they grow bigger. (Iron Ox)

Okay, okay, it's true. The solution to our future issues almost always seems to be robots. But even if you're skeptical, we think the Iron Ox has the goods to win you over. Why?

Because this California startup is aimed at addressing some of the biggest problems facing farming. Such as:

  • taking up too much space
  • using too much water
  • depleting soil nutrients
  • produce travelling too far to stay fresh for customers in cities

Iron Ox addresses this with a fully-automated* hydroponics process (growing plants in just water, not soil) that is sterile (germ-free), and uses less water and about 30 times less space as conventional farming. And it can be done completely indoors, year-round, and placed right in the heart of even the busiest cities (so no long travel for your kale). Sounds perfect, right? Which means ...

Green growing pains

Embed from Getty Images

A fallow field—this is when a field is left unplanted so that it can naturally replenish its nutrients. Hydroponic farming doesn't require this step. (Getty Embed)

Yes, when things sound perfect, there's usually a catch. Sure, the people behind Iron Ox have been able to grow around 26,000 heads of leafy greens and herbs a year in just 0.2 acres of space. (That's super efficient, by the way.) And they do this with just two robots overseeing the majority of the growing process—the bots tend to the plants, even moving them as they grow for top efficiency.

But it isn't fully automated yet*. Humans are still needed to do the initial planting, as well as the final picking and processing of the food. And this technology is still unproven on a large scale. It's one thing to be able to pull this off in the trial environment—can Iron Ox's tech supply literally hundreds of thousands of grocery stores when they're all relying on it for veggies?

Mighty impressive

iron ox

So far Iron Ox is only growing leafy greens. Can it be adapted to handle other crops, as well? (Iron Ox)

All the same, this feat is still mighty impressive. Years of incredible research and innovation allow these robots to identify diseases, pests, and defects in produce. And no matter the mistakes or challenges along the way, tech like this feels like it will be a big part of our food future.

Watch this video to get a sense of just how impressive this metal beast really is.

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