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San Carlos Startup Creates Robotic Farm Of The Future

SAN CARLOS (KPIX 5) -- The country's first ever robot farm is opening in the Bay Area with the facility's high-tech machinery leading a new agricultural revolution.

Almost hidden away in a San Carlos warehouse, robots are growing and harvesting food.

It's a potential revolution in agriculture happening under the lights and in near silence.

"You're at Iron Ox. This is the world's first production robotic farm," said Iron Ox CEO Brandon Alexander.

Alexander was raised on old-school family farms in Texas and Oklahoma. But his love for robotics pushed him to develop methods for machines to do tedious jobs like seeding, transplanting and harvesting.

Alexander says robots could help solve a growing farm labor crisis.

"Our goal is to use technology like robotics and machine learning to be able to grow produce at better quality, more consistently and cheaper," explained Alexander.

Several companies around the world are venturing into autonomous agriculture. But Iron Ox says its technology and methods set it apart.

A robotic arm is outfitted with stereoscopic cameras that allow it to see in 3-D and gently work around the tender leaves and stems of young plants.

The plants are all contained in hydroponic pods so they are all grown in water, not soil.

The farm also uses what could be the John Deere tractor of the future.

The machine is called "Angus" and it does all the heavy lifting. It rolls on special wheels that rotate forward and backward and side to side.

The company is first focusing on salad greens, all grown in the warehouse under led lighting.

Iron Ox is packaging the produce and testing it with local chefs.

"While we are focusing on restaurants, we do plan on expanding to grocery stores in 2019," said Alexander

In the company's test kitchen, Alexander gave KPIX 5 reporter Len Ramirez a chance to sample what may be heading to a grocery aisle near you.

Although California has easy access to the freshest greens, many parts of the world do not.

Iron Ox's Alexander says with the company's automated methods, it can produce the ingredients for a delicious salad bowl anywhere.

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