Agtech robotics startup seeking to revolutionize agriculture cuts its workforce in half

KEY POINTS

  • Iron Ox’s chief legal officer says the company is looking to renew its focus
  • The company was backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures because of its climate-friendly processes
  • Whole Foods is one of the companies that sell Iron Ox products

Robotic agriculture company Iron Ox laid off 50 workers, nearly half of its workforce this week, the Bay Area-based company confirmed Thursday. The company, which raised nearly $100 million last year through its promising culture processes, said the layoffs were implemented to renew its hyperfocus on core goals.

Widespread layoffs were implemented this week on company staff “just over 100 people,” TechCrunch reported. Fifty jobs have been cut, according to the outlet. The removed roles were those “not central to our renewed focus,” Iron Ox chief legal officer Myra Pasek said in a statement released Thursday by the outlet.

Pasek explained that the layoffs “were a painful decision”, further noting that the agtech company has “always hired world-class talent”, and she is “convinced that the people we unfortunately had to lay off this week will have many options available to them. .”

Although the company did not provide further details on the main objectives it will focus on after the layoffs, Pasek said there were no plans to step down.

In September 2021, Iron Ox announced a $53 million Series C funding round led by investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), founded by Bill Gates, bringing the company’s total funding to $98 million. dollars.

At the time, BEV’s investment committee co-chair Carmichael Roberts said Iron Ox “is in a unique position to accelerate the transition to climate-smart agriculture.”

Iron Ox pioneered autonomous farming in 2018, saying its farming processes capitalize on “a data-driven approach supported by plant science, robotics and artificial intelligence”.

Earlier this year, the company expanded its agricultural operations to Lockhart, Texas. At that time, Iron Ox CEO Brandon Alexander said the company had made deals with local businesses to sell its leafy greens and basil, local KVUE reported.

Alexander previously told CNBC that Iron Ox has different robots tending to the plants in its greenhouses. Among the processes that the robots carry out are looking for potential problems and adjusting the necessary amounts of water that the plants should receive.

Iron Ox products are available at several retailers such as Mollie Stone’s Markets, Good Things Grocery, Wheatsville Food Co-op and Whole Foods.

Founded in 2015, Iron Ox is just one of the tech companies that made layoffs this week. Stripe laid off more than a thousand workers, Twitter is expected to lay off thousands of employees on Friday, and Amazon and Apple announced hiring freezes amid a global economic slowdown.

In photo: the leaves of a Nicotiana benthamiana plant photographed at the Medicago greenhouse in Quebec, August 13, 2014.
Reuters / Mathieu Belanger

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