November 2, 2021
Iron Ox, which is developing farming innovations utilizing plant science, robotics, and artificial intelligence, has announced a mobile support robot named Grover. The mobile robot can lift more than 1,000 pounds and assists in the monitoring, watering, and harvesting of several crops, from leafy greens to strawberries.
Iron Ox said Grover is a key component to its broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system that optimizes plant yield, reduces growth cycle time and maximizes crop quality.
“We are applying technology to minimize the amount of land, water and energy needed to nourish a growing population,” said Brandon Alexander, the CEO of Iron Ox. “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.”
The company said Grover is the result of a team of roboticists, plant scientists, and engineers. The system uses AI, machine learning, computer vision and robotics to grow more with less, leading to less food waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Grover lets Iron Ox change crops at a moment’s notice to meet the needs of nearby grocery stores that might experience a spike in demand for specific seasonal or out-of-season produce.
The robot includes a differential drive system, multiple lidar sensors, upward and forward-facing camera systems. The lift system can autonomously move 1,000-pound, 6-by-6-foot modules of hydroponically fed plants throughout a greenhouse. Modules are regularly transported by Grover to a scanning booth for inspection – based on those results, they are taken for additional water, nutrients, or harvesting.
“Designing and building Grover was a complex multi-year project, solving many challenges in hardware, software, autonomy and mobility,” said Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox’s 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.”
Earlier this year, the company broke ground on a 535,000 square-foot indoor farm in Lockhart, Texas, joining other farms in Northern California. Produce from Iron Ox can be found throughout California at Whole Foods Markets and at San Francisco Bay Area markets such as Bianchini’s and Mollie Stone’s. The company said sales outside of California are expected to begin by the holidays, with the first harvest from the new Texas facility.
For more details on Grover, visit the Iron Ox website here.