Iron Ox provides updates
From staff reports
Indoor robotic farming business Iron Ox, a Silicon Valley company that expanded its operations to Lockhart last year, reported that produce grown at its new facility should begin appearing in Texas grocery stores early this year.
The City of Lockhart recently approved incentives for local expansion by Iron Ox, a farming innovation company with deep expertise in plant science, robotics and artificial intelligence. The incentives package includes a grant for utilities construction at the company’s planned one million-square-foot facility on 85 acres on Commerce Street. The project will bring jobs, revenues and other benefits to the City.
“Iron Ox has already made a great impact in the City of Lockhart at their state-of-the-art facility on Reed Drive,” said Lockhart Mayor Lew White. “Our City Council was pleased to offer these latest incentives so the company can move forward with its new million-square-foot facility on Commerce Street, which will create more job opportunities and enhance our community’s business development.”
By voting on Nov. 16 to commit $200,000 toward the construction of water and wastewater utilities, the Lockhart City Council provided incentives for Iron Ox — which in April 2021, broke ground on a 535,000-square-foot facility on Reed Drive — to expand its footprint in the city. Those incentives also include the five-year City property tax rebate incentive to Iron Ox, once its expansion facility on South Commerce Street is finished and a certificate of occupancy has been granted.
“Companies like Iron Ox are making a difference in small town local economies in Texas. That’s why I’m so proud to have them as a GO TEXAN partner,” said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. “Iron Ox has chosen to grow with Lockhart. As a result, our Texas agricultural economy will benefit from their expansion. To many, barbecue helped put Lockhart on the national stage. Now, thanks to Iron Ox, Lockhart can be known as a center for agricultural innovation, and a trend setter in the future of agriculture in both Texas and the nation.”
Iron Ox’s closed-loop proprietary system uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and hydroponics to make the agriculture sector more efficient and robust, while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts. Its technology produces a wide variety of crops, including herbs and lettuces, while using a small fraction of the land, water and energy compared to food grown on conventional farms.
“To meet the increased demand for nutritious and sustainable produce grown locally, we are committed to scaling our business to serve consumer needs,” said Iron Ox CEO Brandon Alexander, who grew up picking cotton, potatoes and peanuts on his family’s farm in Texas. “We are excited to explore the possibility of a second facility in the City of Lockhart as part of our long-term strategy and are beyond grateful to the Mayor and the City Council for helping make this a reality.”
The Lockhart Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) is authorized to promote state and local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity within the City. The LEDC determined that substantial economic benefits, including bringing new primary jobs to the City, increasing the City’s tax revenues and creating new local employment opportunities, will come from Iron Ox’s successful development of the property.
To receive the rebate, Iron Ox must close on the land, construct the utilities and pay for them, and begin construction for the new facility, with an expected capital investment of $120 million. The Lockhart City Council felt that construction of the utilities will provide benefits beyond the facility, as that area within the community continues to experience growth requiring public services.