Greenhouse robots work like a Formula 1 pit-stop crew

23-12-2021 | |
Phil quickly and precisely fills each 6-by-6-foot plant module in under two minutes. - Photo: Iron Ox
Phil quickly and precisely fills each 6-by-6-foot plant module in under two minutes. - Photo: Iron Ox

Iron Ox launches the greenhouse robot “Phil”, which works in tandem with the earlier launched robot “Grover”. Together, the robots quickly and autonomously filll, analyze and top off plant modules in greenhouses, forming a closed-loop greenhouse system.

Phil is an addition to the Iron Ox ecosystem that aims to optimize plant yield, expand growth cycles and maximize crop quality. Its sensor technology identifies trends in each module’s water and nutrient mix, quickly and precisley measuring nutrient content and pH levels.

Phil is equipped with Ultraviolet LEDs for quick and efficient sanitizing without producing waste.

Robot tandem

Phil works in tandem with Grover, an autonomous mobile robot that 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, in greenhouses. Iron Ox presented Grover earlier this year.

Grover transports plant modules and docks to Phil, who, using his advanced sensors, hygienically fills it precisely to the required volume and nutrient mix in under two minutes.

Samples for data collection

Grover brings Phil modules for checkups throughout each plant module’s growth cycle. Phil first takes a small sample of the water and nutrient mix. That sample goes into a reservoir equipped with sensors to measure the nutrient content and pH of the module. Iron Ox’s plant science team uses these data to understand how the plants are consuming water, and the nutrients and at what rate.

Phil then senses the water level and adjusts it to match its target settings. Another sample is taken for validation. When Phil is done with his work, Grover takes the plant module back to its respective place in the greenhouse.

Text continues underneath video

Like a Formula 1 pitstop

Iron Ox says Phil enables high throughput of modules, making the interaction between Grover and Phil akin to a Formula 1 pitstop. This contactless procedure eliminates the need to re sanitize Phil after each module.

“The addition of Phil enables fast throughput of plant modules in an efficient and foodsafe process,” said Sarah Osentoski, Iron Ox Senior Vice President of Engineering. “Phil’s advanced sensors give the teams of plant and data scientists valuable information to optimize the entire closed-loop system of Iron Ox’s greenhouses.”

Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming