The way technology has changed how we grow food is kind of spectacular, when you stop to think about it. Back in the late 1700s, about 90 percent of people in America were farmers. Now? It’s less than 2 percent of the total national population. Thanks to advances in technology, going from horses and plows to tractors, GPS, and sprinkler systems, we’re now able to grow more than enough food for everyone with only a fraction of the effort.
But what if we could make things even more streamlined? And what if we could reduce the amount of crops damaged by weather, disease, pests, and other inherent risks of open-air farming, while at the same time producing a huge amount of food?
That scenario is exactly what Iron Ox is trying to create.
Iron Ox: Robots in The Greenhouse
According to Wired, Iron Ox is a company whose goal is to combine mechanization and robotics with greenhouse agriculture. Because while greenhouses have a lot of benefits (they let us grow plants year round regardless of season, they keep out pests and storms, and they allow complete control over nutrients and environment), they are rather labor intensive. You can’t really fit a tractor into a greenhouse, which means so much of the work has to be done by hand.
Or does it?
What Iron Ox is working on is a system that brings factory-style mechanization to the greenhouse setting. So all the tedious sorting and moving of plants, as well as removing diseased or flawed specimens, can all be done with mechanical speed, and efficiency. The idea is to cut down the labor costs of greenhouses to make them more efficient so that they can produce more crops with fewer mistakes, and fewer risks. The end result of which would be more produce people can eat, with fewer plants lost to hazards, and being left behind during the harvest for their appearance. Not only would this cut down on food waste, but it would make it possible to grow more food with fewer resources put into the process, which could be a small agricultural revolution in and of itself.