Is AI the answer to sustainable farming?

What happens when a robotics expert and a sixth-generation farmer decide to start a company together? They spend most of their time grappling with one looming problem: climate change.

In 2020, Gilwoo Lee, the robotics expert, and Casey Call, the farmer, founded Zordi, an agricultural platform that blends AI and robotics with greenhouse growing. A recent graduate of the University of Washington, Lee was stuck at home during the wildfires. “That was just a very strong signal of climate change happening. I was already committed to starting my own company with something where my robotics and AI can make a big difference when it comes to impact,” Lee said.

Call, who is the head grower and an agronomist at Zordi, says he’d seen the impact of sustainability on his family’s 12,000 acres of farmland in western New York, where they grow peas, beans, corn, carrots, soy, and potatoes. “My whole life, it’s been overwhelmingly convincing that agriculture needs to get more efficient,” Call said.

Zordi, an ag startup backed by Khosla Ventures that just came out of stealth mode, leverages robotics, AI, and conventional farming wisdom to grow strawberries in greenhouses in the Northeast. Under human supervision, robots do everything from plant to harvest a unique variety of strawberries imported from Japan and Korea. The company uses AI and machine learning to monitor the growing process and control the environment inside the greenhouses. They also use robots to harvest the ripe fruit.


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