AI-controlled Greenhouse Uses 90 Percent Less Water To Produce Salads

Californian startup  Iron Ox runs an indoor farm complete with a few hundred plants—and two robot farmers. Instead of using technology to grow genetically modified food, a former Google engineer partnered with one of his friends who had a PhD in robotics to open a technology-based farm where they plant, seed, and grow heads of lettuce.

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Iron Ox’s goal is to provide quality produce to everyone without a premium price. According to Natural Society the average head of lettuce travels 2,055 miles from farm to market, which is why fresh lettuce is often so expensive. Currently, Iron Ox only provides produce to restaurants and grocery stores in the Bay Area of California, which is why after a daily harvest, their products are hours fresh as opposed to shipped in. The company aims to open greenhouses near other major cities, guaranteeing same-day delivery from their trucks at a fraction of the price of the current supply chain.

So why the robots? Lettuce has always been a testing ground for farming innovation, from early greenhouses to closed aquaponic ecosystems. According to Iron Ox, their AI-controlled greenhouse uses 90 percent less water than traditional farms, and because of the technology, each head of lettuce receives intimate individualized attention that is not realistic with human labor. Iron Ox also says that because they grow their products indoors with no pesticides, they don’t have to worry about typical farming issues like stray animals eating their product.

Iron Ox has yet to launch a fully-functioning automated greenhouse, but hope to build their first by the end of 2017. However, Iron Ox is not the only company to experiment with robot farming. Spread, a sustainable farming organization, broke ground on their first techno-farm, which will be fully automated and operated by robots growing lettuce, in May. They have plans to expand to the Middle East next and then continue growing.

Does this mean the future of produce is automation? Not exactly. Agriculture is complex business, and not all produce can be greenhouse-grown as efficiently and effectively as lettuce. But it’s one more reason for farmers to be aware of how the robots are coming for us all.

Source: https://www.saveur.com/

Urban Farming At Home

Growing your own vegetables and herbs can be a laborious process. Lack of space in urban environments makes it even harder. But this smart garden is bringing the window box into the modern age. Much like Nespresso coffee capsules, users ‘plant’ this soil pod… containing the seeds and all the nutrients which are released in sync with the plant’s life cycle.

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This is the plastic container they put the growing substrate in here. It has a wick solution, so basically it starts to drain the water from the water tank, and the lamp does the rest of the job. The lamp imitates daylight time, so it’s 16 hours on and 8 hours off. So far we have tested some 7,000 different plants and each growing substrate is designed specifically for this plant,” says Karel Kask, sales Manager, Click and Grow. Estonia-based ‘Click and Grow‘ says it’s tested up to a thousand lighting solutions to ensure optimal growth. The red and white lights deliver the perfect spectrum they say, speeding up growth by 30 to 50 percent, depending on the plant. Each soil pod provides up to 3 harvests. ‘Click and Grow‘ was inspired by NASA technology used to grow food in space. Here, astronauts aboard the International Space Station sample lettuce they’ve grown.

They’re using quite similar soil-based solutions; so they take the soil substrate into space and grow them already in there. They have an automated watering solution. So it’s quite similar to the solution that we do.The Smart Garden 9, its latest and most advanced model, was displayed at this week’s IFA tech fair in Berlin,” adds Kask.

Farming in Brooklyn

Erik Groszyk used to spend all day at his desk working as an investment banker. Now he cultivates his own urban farm out of a 40-foot shipping container in a Brooklyn parking lot.

I just found myself not satisfied and kind of yearning for more,’ says Erik Groszyk.  The Harvard grad is one of 10 ‘entrepreneurial farmers,’ selected from a batch of 500 applicants, working with Square Roots, an indoor urban farming company launched in November that grows local food year-round in the heart of New York City. Now, six months into the program, Groszyk said his training in farming, artificial lighting, water chemistry and nutrient balance allows him to harvest roughly 15 to 20 pounds of produce each week.

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People have lost trust in the food system, right? They want real food where they know their farmer, they know where their food is coming from, and they trust their food,‘ explains Tobias Peggs, Square Roots co-founder. He, along with his co-founder Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Tesla‘s Elon Musk, aim to spread out to as many American cities as they possibly can in the next five to 10 years.

By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet and 70 percent will leave in urban areas. These people need feeding, and they will want local, real food,” he adds.
Square Roots sells food locally. It also plans to launch more urban farms, for others to operate, and will own a share in those farms’ revenues as well. Peggs says the company, by getting hyper-local, is looking to join a global food revolution. ‘America’s is the world’s great, greatest exporter. Right? We exported rock and roll, we exported Levi’s jeans. We also exported obesity. And the feeling is, if we can solve that, in America, through initiatives like Square Roots, bringing real food to everyone, getting more people on a healthy, low-cost, sustainable food system, that we’ll also be able to export that solution.’

Source: https://squarerootsgrow.com/
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