Robot Farmers

October 23, 2018
Robot Farmers

The start-up company, Iron Ox, is working to deliver robotically grown vegetables.  They have planted their first robot farm about 25 miles south of San Francisco in a warehouse.  They intend to sell their vegetables to local restaurants later this year, and to supermarkets early next year.

Their first farm is in a warehouse forcing them to use artificial lights, and thus substantial energy.  But future robot farms will be in greenhouses to reduce energy costs.  Their plan is to locate these robot farms close to metropolitan areas.

Video Spotlight: Watch robots grow food without farmers

This post is based on The Daily Times article, Meet the farmers of the future: Robots, by Michael Liedtke, September 28, 2018, and the YouTube video, Watch robots grow food without farmers, by CNBC, October 3, 2018. Image source: Shutterstock / Beros919.

Discussion Questions:

1. What benefits does the use of robotics have for the farm?

Guidance: The biggest advantage is the reduction in labor.  The cost of farm labor is rising, and finding workers is getting more difficult.  Until recently, many of the workers on U.S. farms were not in the U.S. legally.  The labor problem is escalating in the current political environment.  Robots provide a consistent workforce for these farms.

2. What other benefits are provided outside of the robots?

Guidance: Although not new, the use of hydroponics allows the robot farm to be placed almost anywhere.  With much of the vegetables produced in California, Arizona, and Mexico, the cost of transportation can be reduced.  Additionally, the weather will have less impact on robot farms, creating a more stable year round production of vegetables.

3. How might these changes impact inventory management?

Guidance: By having a steadier, local source of vegetables, the associated inventory management can be improved, producing lower cost, fresher vegetables, and less spoilage.  The end result is a fresher, more consistent availability of vegetables to your plate.


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