Agritech Startups Root AI and AppHarvest Join Forces to Push Agriculture Into the Future

By Elijah Labby Sunday, April 18, 2021

AppHarvest, an agritech startup company that aims to reduce water usage and promote sustainability in farming, is acquiring another agricultural startup company — Root AI. Together, they hope to bring new possibilities to the world of 21st-century agriculture via the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Agriculture technology concept.

What the Agritech Company Does

Root AI is uniquely positioned to bring its new parent business into the field. The newly acquired agritech startup company utilizes AI and robotics to monitor and grow horticulture systems. AI collects data on the plants to monitor the progression of their health and what could be done to help improve their growth.

What Root AI and Its New Parent Company Does

Now, both Root AI and AppHarvest aim to combat environmental factors that cause negative impacts on agriculture.

“Farming as we’ve known it is broken because of the increasing number of variables such as extreme weather, droughts, fire and contamination by animals that make our food system unreliable,” said Jonathan Webb, founder and CEO of AppHarvest. “Indoor farming solves for many of those challenges, and the data gathered can exponentially deliver more insights that help us predict and control crop quality and yield.”

One Product the Agritech Startup Offers

One of the most significant technologies from Root AI is Virgo, an automated, AI-powered machine that the startup business calls the world’s first universal harvester.

Virgo can identify and harvest plants and vegetables. It can identify multiple variations of the same fruit growing in different places and climates, but it can also do much more than that. Virgo can also use infrared laser technology to scan fruits and vegetables as well as their surroundings to determine their orientation and maturity. Furthermore, it can assess when would be the best time to harvest.

The technology that the agritech startup has developed keeps a track record of its successes and failures that one can access. It also utilizes AI to increase access and improve performance.

“A piece of food—whether that’s a tomato or a berry or a cucumber—is an outcome from many variables that are part of the growing process. Enhanced data collection… can lead to insights that teach us precisely how to design better, more resilient food systems that are reliable and that produce more food with fewer resources,“ said Josh Lessing, founder and CEO of the Root AI startup business.

The Importance of the Business’s Work on Agriculture

Both Root AI and its new parent business are doing important work. Scientists believe that the effect of global climate change will affect the ability of farmers to effectively grow their crops within a matter of years. AppHarvest and its new startup company’s acquisition are joining a slew of companies that hope to fight climate change’s harshest effects.

But the agriculture business is also entering a profitable industry. The global smart agriculture industry, according to market research firm Markets and Markets, is anticipated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 10% to a total value of about $22 billion by 2025. That means the possibility of big gains for AppHarvest’s agritech business and major innovation in the AI agriculture industry.

About the Author


Headshot of Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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