Ag tech company Iron Ox, best known for its greenhouses powered by robotics and AI, announced this week it has raised a $20 million Series B round. The round was led by Pathbreak Ventures with participation from Amplify Partners, At One Ventures, Crosslink Capital, , ENIAC Ventures, R7 Partners, and Tuesday Ventures. Iron Ox’s total funding to-date including this round is $45 million.
In addition to the funding news, Iron Ox also announced a new farming facility in California, this one in Gilroy. Like the company’s first greenhouse, which is located in San Carlos and opened in 2018, the Gilroy facility will use a hydroponic grow system manned not by humans but by a large mobile machine equipped with robotic grippers. The machine plants, harvests, and moves the heavy grow trays around as needed, while machine learning and computer vision systems monitor plant growth. Humans aren’t completely out of the equation, though: the system still needs them to prune and inspect plants.
Unlike many other indoor farming operations, Iron Ox does not use LED lights, but instead relies on good ol’ fashioned sunlight for plant growth. For now, the farms grow the standard mixture of leafy greens and herbs. The new Gilroy farm will sell these greens to Whole Foods and Bianchinis markets in California.
Some of the benefits high-tech greenhouses like those of Iron Ox bring include more efficient use of space and the ability to serve customers (the ones that can afford Whole Foods, at least) locally. Iron Ox also says it uses less water than traditional farming as well as less energy.