Could these AI robots replace farmers and make agriculture more sustainable?
Robots powered by artificial intelligence could farm more sustainably than traditional farming, says a Silicon Valley company.
Agricultural tech start-up Iron Ox says its mission is make the global agricultural sector carbon negative. And they just got 47 million euros ($ 53 million) from investors including Bill Gates.
CEO Brandon Alexander cannot be accused of lacking experience in food production. He spent every summer of his childhood on his grandparents’ farm, picking cotton, potatoes or peanuts under the Texas sun.
Still, with a robotics degree “precisely to escape farm work,” Alexander says he couldn’t help but think he could make a bigger impact by working in agriculture.
A feeling that only grew when he learned that 40% of the food grown in the world is thrown away before reaching our baskets.
Robotics and artificial intelligence could grow food in the future
Alexander quit his previous job in 2015 to take a six-month road trip through California. He wanted to experience first-hand the issues facing American farmers and understand how automation could help them.
Along the way, he discovered extreme water scarcity, difficulties in finding labor, and a host of other issues. With this knowledge, Alexander launched a startup focused on self-sustaining agriculture in 2018.
â€œTo really eliminate waste, to really achieve that next level of sustainability and impact, we have to rethink the whole growing process,â€ says Alexander.
Now, in the company’s greenhouse in Gilroy, Calif., Two robots named Grover and Ada are growing basil, strawberries and other crops using a hydroponic system.
How does the system work?
Iron Ox’s system uses artificial intelligence to ensure that each plant receives the optimum levels of sunlight, water and nutrients. Grover is responsible for transporting the plants to the dosing station, where he hands the products to Ada, a robotic arm.
Stopping is akin to a visit to the doctor. Sensors help check the levels of nutrients in the water and any other ingredients necessary for healthy growth. After the examination, personalized doses of nutrients can be automatically delivered to the plants via the hydroponic system.
This way the farm produces less waste and only uses the amount of water it really needs. Data is continuously collected from crops, helping AI know what plants need – improve their yield and reduce their environmental impact.
Watch the video to see these AI-powered robots in action.