Grover is not your average farmer. It can lift more than 1,000 pounds and assists in the monitoring, watering, and harvesting of a wide variety of crops, from leafy greens to strawberries.
Grover is a key component of Iron Ox's broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system that optimizes plant yield, reduces growth cycle time, and maximizes crop quality. The result is delicious, nutritious, locally sourced fruits and vegetables that currently cost about the same as produce from conventional farms, with substantially lower environmental impacts.
"We are applying technology to minimize the amount of land, water, and energy needed to nourish a growing population," said Brandon Alexander, who grew up picking cotton, potatoes, and peanuts on his family's farm in Texas, then became a software engineer who worked on drones and other projects at Google and elsewhere. "Our short-term goal is to mitigate the impact of climate change on the agriculture system, and we won't stop until we achieve our long-term mission of making the produce sector carbon negative."
Image Courtesy of Iron Ox
Growth + versatility = Grover
Grover is the result of Iron Ox's team of roboticists, plant scientists, and engineers. The San Carlos, California-based startup uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, and robotics to grow more with less, leading to less food waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Grover allows Iron Ox to change crops at a moment's notice to meet the needs of nearby grocery stores that, for instance, experience a spike in demand for specific seasonal or even out-of-season produce.
Grover employs a differential drive system, multiple LiDAR systems, and upward and forward-facing camera systems. Grover is additionally equipped with a lift system to autonomously move 1,000-pound, 6-by-6-foot modules of hydroponically fed plants throughout the greenhouse. Modules are regularly transported by Grover to a scanning booth for inspection and based on the results, they are taken for additional water, nutrients, or harvesting.
"Designing and building Gover was a complex multi-year project, solving many challenges in hardware, software, autonomy, and mobility," said Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox Senior Vice President of Engineering.