Robotic farming firm Iron Ox raises $53M

Bay Area-based autonomous farming startup Iron Ox this week announced a $53 million round. The Series C, led by Breakthrough Energy Venture, brings the firm’s total funding up to $98 million.

Iron Ox is one of a large number of companies looking to revolutionize farming for the 21st century, amid growing concerns over population growth, climate change, labor shortages and a slew of other mounting concerns. Solutions range from large-scale indoor farms to field robotics designed for a more plug and play approach that operates with a more traditional setup.

The startup refers to its approach as a “closed loop system.” It’s effectively a robotic greenhouse full of proprietary harvesting technology. The company doesn’t have any outlandish claims in terms of yield, saying it more or less amounts to what you’ll get from a traditional farm, but it’s working to do so with a significantly smaller environmental footprint — and a model that is less beholden to seasonal changes than standard farming.

Iron Ox says its system uses around 90% less water than traditional farming. These sorts of systems also integrate data into every part of the process, collecting a significant amount of information about the produce they grow to improve on future yield.

“World-class investors know that humanity’s most important pursuit is to reverse climate change. To get there, we can’t settle for incrementally more sustainable crops — and we can’t ask consumers to compromise on taste, convenience, or value,” co-founder and CEO Brandon Alexander said in a release tied to the news. “We are applying technology to minimize the amount of land, water and energy needed to nourish a growing population. The team at Iron Ox will not stop until we achieve our long-term mission of making the produce sector carbon negative.”

The company says this round will go toward scaling manufacturing, expanding operations in the U.S., ramping up R&D and hiring more headcount.