Iron Ox Launches Grover Autonomous Mobile Robot for Hydroponic Farming

Grover's rocker suspension and motors are designed to lift more than 1,000 lb. to enable sustainable agriculture at scale, says Iron Ox.

Iron Ox

Grover is a mobile robot designed to be durable, hygienic, and heavy-duty.

Iron Ox Inc. today announced the launch of Grover, an autonomous mobile robot to assist farmers with monitoring, watering, and harvesting a wide variety of crops, from leafy greens to strawberries. The San Carlos, Calif.-based company said Grover can help implement water-saving hydroponic techniques at scale.

“We are applying technology to minimize the amount of land, water and energy needed to nourish a growing population,” said Brandon Alexander, 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.”

Alexander grew up picking cotton, potatoes, and peanuts on his family's farm in Texas. He then became a software engineer who worked on drones and other projects at Google and elsewhere.

Founded in 2018, Iron Ox said it “has redesigned every step of the farming process, from seed to store shelf, achieving levels of precision that are impossible through conventional farming.” The Silicon Valley startup claimed that it can help provide delicious, nutritious, sustainable, and local produce.

Grover designed to optimize hydroponics

Iron Ox said Grover is a key component of its broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system intended to optimize plant yield, reduce growth cycle times, and maximize crop quality. The company's team of roboticists, plant scientists, and engineers has applied artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, and robotics to grow more with less, leading to less food waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Grover allows Iron Ox to change crops at a moment's notice to meet the needs of nearby grocery stores that, for instance, experience a spike in demand for specific seasonal or even out-of-season produce. The company said the mobile robot makes the massive scale of its hydroponic facilities possible.

Designed to be hygienic, durable, and sleek, Grover uses a differential drive system, multiple lidar sensors, and upward- and forward-facing cameras, said Iron Ox.

It is equipped with a lift system to autonomously move 1,000-lb., 6-by-6-foot modules of hydroponically fed plants throughout the greenhouse. Modules are regularly transported by Grover to a scanning booth for inspection and based on the results, they are taken for additional water, nutrients, or harvesting.

“Designing and building Gover was a complex multi-year project, solving for many challenges in hardware, software, autonomy, and mobility. We assembled a world-class team to achieve this,” said Sarah Osentoski, senior vice president of engineering at Iron Ox. “Our goal is to make Iron Ox a center for excellence in agriculture with a core competence in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Iron Ox mobile robot

Iron Ox uses robots in its hydroponic farms. Source: Business Wire

Iron Ox plows funding into growth

Iron Ox operates farms in Northern California and earlier this year broke ground on the 535,000 sq.-ft. indoor farm in Lockhart, Texas.

The company's produce can be found throughout California at Whole Foods Markets and at San Francisco Bay Area markets such as Bianchini's and Mollie Stone's. Sales outside of California are expected to begin by the holidays with the first harvest from the new Texas facility.

In September, Iron Ox announced a $53 million Series C funding round led by new investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures. That group is backed by many of the world's top business leaders and dedicated to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Iron Ox said it is using its latest funding to expand its intellectual property portfolio in robotics and AI. The company is hiring plant scientists, engineers, greenhouse operators and roboticists.

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Iron Ox

Grover is a mobile robot designed to be durable, hygienic, and heavy-duty.

Robot Technologies