Brandon Alexander grew up on a hot Texas farm picking cotton, potatoes, and peanuts. He moved to Silicon Valley where he specialized in robotics, and in 2015 he founded Iron Ox, an indoor farming company that uses hydroponic growing system monitored by robotics. As the West faces droughts and wildfires, many startup companies are experimenting with moving farms indoors. The strategy could maximize farming yields with less requirements for land usage. And with the aid of water recirculation, water use can be reduced by 90 percent compared to traditional farming methods. “Our goal is zero waste farming,” said Alexander. “That means every liter of water, every gram of nitrogen, every joule of energy needs to create calories, needs to create nutritional value.” The system is suited for vegetables and leafy greens, but it is not known whether staple crops like wheat and corn can be produced on a mass scale.

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