Out 032 099
Guardian weekly logo black and blue png

#2 - Jamal Khashoggi case

Artificial Intelligence : Down on the robot farmstead

Par Noah Smith - 5 mn

Out 032 099
Steady hand Transplanting lettuce seedlings TRAVIS CARROLL

A California company has turned to autonomous machines to solve a shortage of agricultural labourers

America’s first autonomous robot farm launched earlier this month, in the hopes that artificial intelligence (AI) can remake an industry facing a serious labour shortage and pressure to produce more crops.

Claiming an ability to “grow 30 times more produce than traditional farms” on the strength of AI software, year-round soilless hydroponic processes, and moving plants as they grow to use space efficiently, the San Carlos, California-based company Iron Ox aims to address some of the agricultural industry’s biggest challenges. Such challenges have also caught the attention of investors, who made more than $10bn in investments last year, representing a 29% increase from 2016.

In a 185-square-metre grow space, leafy greens and herbs are planted in individual pots housed in “grow modules”, which weigh about 360kg.