Robots have been encroaching our space recently. The machines are becoming better surgeons, better lawyers, and even better aeronautic engineers. But talk of better farmers that they can replace human workers 100%, that’s unheard of!
However, you know what, Iron Ox a robotic company has just launched what they say would be the first leafy green production farm that would do everything autonomously. The original farm has been running with only 15 human employees who’ve been working hand in hand with robots, tending countless rows of growing leafy greens.
The New Facility
The autonomous farm will be running its operations in San Carlos, somewhere near San Francisco. Call it farming inside the city and you’ll still be correct, as that’s what it is. However, the amazing thing is the amount of production coming out of the facility against the space in use.
It’s in an 8,000-square-foot space and runs indoors — neighboring the startup’s offices. The facility is expected to produce over 26,000 heads of leafy greens each year. Now, compared to what a typical outdoor farm would produce in the same space of land, the new farm’s output would be five times more.
The company’s major vision has been to one day go fully autonomous, where robots and software evolve to handle tasks that were previously reserved for human workers.
In relation to employment, the worry was that several millions of people around the world would suffer joblessness when things go autonomous. However, in food production, the industry has been facing a great shortage of workers as more young people prefer white-collar jobs.
In fact, this shortage has severally been mentioned in the list of factors that threaten food security in the near future, so we had better welcome robots to be our farmers, else we all die of starvation.
Off cause, the few people who are still into agriculture have a thing or two to worry about, but then, they can advance their skill so that the farms planning to go robotic can rehire them in other slots, like maintaining and repairing the agents.
Is it Business as Usual?
Well, Iron Ox hasn’t begun selling its foodstuff, but the production is trickling in like you’d expect, in tons. They have just started marketing their produce and weighing off prices. But don’t think anything will be rotting in the meanwhile, the thousands of lettuce currently produced all go into the company’s food bank, and the salad bar.
The production flow chart is running as normal. In daily operations, robotic arms pluck the plants individually from their special hydroponic trays and transplant them to new trays where they should spend their next phase of growth. The transfer is highly essential to the plant’s health, and maximum output — something traditional farms don’t have a way to do. The machines also move around carrying 800 pounds plus water tanks for irrigation.
Initially, the biggest hurdle was actually making these different machines work as a team. Every part of each machine must accomplish an essential task to for thing to run smooth.
Now to achieve that, Brandon Alexander says that the breakthrough came after they managed to create a software they call “The Brain” that now synchronizes all operations. The software ensures the plants get the right amount of temperature, water, and nitrogen as well as coordinate both robot and human action when required.
Well, despite the fact a greater percentage of the operations in the farm has been automated, at some point, a bit of human input is inevitable. The reason this technological advancement is making headlines is, with farms like these based in the middle of cities it means we will be eating fresher leafy greens, compared to imported foodstuffs that travel thousands of miles before reaching our groceries.