Agriculture can feed the world, but it also contributes to global warming. Agricultural production uses about 70% of the Earth’s fresh water and accounts for about a third of greenhouse gas emissions. But it is not necessary. Agriculture is moving inland and farmers aren’t exactly what they used to be. New forms of agriculture, new technologies and new companies are making the green greener.
Take Grover and Phil for example: they are autonomous robots, or farmers of the future, working at Iron Ox, a 6-year agricultural tech start-up based in Silicon Valley. Grow products in natural light greenhouses, with the aim of decentralizing agriculture in order to grow crops closer to consumers in a more sustainable way.
“We have several robots that take care of the plants, control them, scan for problems and regulate the amount of nutrients they receive, the amount of water they get,” explained Brandon Alexander, CEO of Iron Ox.
Iron Ox’s method is in direct contrast to what Alexander, who grew up on a Texas farm, calls the “spray and pray” approach to agriculture, where more chemicals create more quantity at the expense of quality. Indoor cultivation allows farmers to grow any crop at any time, regardless of climate and climate change. It also uses hydroponics, growing crops without soil so that the water goes directly to the roots.
“Much of the water in agriculture in the fields is simply washed away and never actually reaches the plant. And when 70% of your fresh water goes into that agriculture, and only 10% actually reaches the plants. generating a lot of waste, “he said.
Iron Ox doesn’t consider itself “vertical farming,” which is another type of technology designed to limit greenhouse gases by growing in smaller spaces. While there is certainly competition in the clean farming space, Alexander says he welcomes it.
“In indoor agricultural space today, even with all the investments in it, frankly these investments are a drop in the bucket in terms of the potential of the space. Food done right has the ability to reach more people than the top five tech companies combined,” he added.
Iron Ox is now expanding into Texas just outside Austin. It sells to retailers such as Whole Foods, as well as to local restaurants. Alexander says the company will produce around 100 times more products in the next 18 months than it is currently producing.
The company is supported by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Crosslink Ventures, R7 Partners, Eniac Ventures, Pathbreaker and / or Bill Gates’ Ventures and Amplify Ventures. Total funding to date: $ 98 million.