Economic growth

Massive $10 million futuristic indoor farm cropping up in Austin suburb

Massive $10 million futuristic indoor farm crops up in Austin suburb

Iron Ox transporter robot
The indoor hydroponics farm will be powered in part by robots. Courtesy of iron Ox

The economy in the Austin suburb of Lockhart is growing — literally. A California company is bringing a massive and futuristic indoor farm to Caldwell County’s biggest city.

San Carlos, California-based Iron Ox, which specializes in no-soil hydroponic farming powered by robotics and artificial intelligence, broke ground April 20 on a 535,000-square-foot indoor farm near U.S. Highway 183 and Blackjack Street.

The company says the hydroponic farm will employ more than 100 people. It’s already looking for a general manager to run the Lockhart operation.

The indoor farm, with a price tag of more than $10 million, is being built in two phases. The first phase, comprising 275,000 square feet, is set for completion by late 2021. The second phase, featuring 260,000 square feet, is scheduled to be finished by early 2022.

The 25-acre farm will grow herbs, leafy greens, berries, and other agricultural products. Iron Ox says it chose Lockhart for the farm due to its sunny climate, location near major cities, and proximity to big universities.

“The addition of Iron Ox to the Lockhart business community represents synergy between our city’s storied history in agriculture and our growing technology sector,” Lockhart Mayor Lew White says in an Iron Ox news release. “The food and beverage processing industry is one of four business sectors Lockhart has targeted in its five-year economic growth plan. Our city’s unique advantages align perfectly with the needs of companies like Iron Ox.”

Iron Ox expects to begin delivering its products — thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables — to retailers and chefs throughout Texas by the end of 2021.

“We have made it our mission to address food security by developing autonomous greenhouses that grow a variety of local and consistently delicious food for everyone,” says Brandon Alexander, co-founder and CEO of Iron Ox.

The Lockhart facility is the company’s first hydroponic farm outside California, where it operates two hydroponic farms. Iron Ox says its no-soil growing system uses 90 percent less water compared with traditional farming while growing 30 times the amount of crops per acre.

Grandview Research predicts revenue in the global hydroponics market will climb from $1.7 billion in 2020 to $5.7 billion in 2025. The hydroponics market includes indoor growers of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, berries, fruits, leafy greens, and cannabis.