Newly created operations methods, brand-new technology and revolutionary ways to conduct business are staples in the Texas Innovation Corridor. Iron Ox, which expanded into Texas from California, possesses all three of these functions of innovation.
Iron Ox, a leader in robotics and AI-enabled farming with a mission to solve food insecurity, launched the world’s first autonomous farm in October 2018, leveraging advancements in plant science, machine learning and robotics. The Iron Ox team develops AI-enabled, autonomous technology that enables fresher, more consistent produce to be grown and distributed globally. Founded by Brandon Alexander, a former Google engineer and a native Texan, Iron Ox is based in California, where it has its headquarters and its first two hydroponic farms. However, the company sought to expand their business to new markets and chose Texas as its ideal location.
The City of Lockhart, long known as a prime agricultural site in Texas, was cited by Iron Ox as being an ideal location for greenhouse development given its ample sunlight and proximity to several state universities for research purposes. With Lockhart’s economic development strategy including a focus on bringing in food and beverage-based companies, Iron Ox also found a network of resources that would support their business objectives and further their long-term development.
With State Highway 130 giving easy access to both Interstate 35 and Interstate 10, Lockhart proved to be an ideal location for distribution lanes throughout the entire state. By having ease of access to the majority of Texas’ population, Iron Ox determined that the region’s central location made it easier to distribute fresh produce around Texas, and ultimately, into additional states.
The City of Lockhart EDC provided a $25,000 grant to Iron Ox to pay for sidewalk construction along Blackjack Street near the site. No other incentives were included in the project.
Iron Ox noted the diligence and continued relationships of economic developers like the Lockhart EDC and GSMP, the staff with the City of Lockhart, and the planning and development staff in the county as factors for choosing Lockhart for their expansion location.
Once operational, the facility at Iron Ox will be the largest industrial site in all of Caldwell County. It is the largest economic development project since 1975, when Kewaunee Scientific Corp. built a manufacturing facility in Lockhart.
Slated to have Phase I opened by Q1 of 2022, Iron Ox will be one of the highest-paying job providers in the county, providing positions such as scientists, salespeople and roboticists.