Robots have arrived in Detroit, and they come with salad

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The initial 30-day pilot program with the Tortoise robots represents a kind of natural expansion for Planted Detroit, said Zach Matyiku, director of sales for the producer.

“Environmentally controlled farming is both an efficient and an inefficient type of farming,” Matyiku told Crain’s.

“We’re competing with the sun – so it’s tough – (and) so electricity will always be a challenge,” Matyiku added. “But in other ways we use a lot less water than traditional agriculture, no pesticides, never herbicides. And so using this kind of electric technology allows us to reduce our carbon footprint, potentially , and it’s just fun and exciting. You know, we’re a tech company ourselves, so partnering with other tech companies just makes sense.”

Tortoise robots have been deployed in a dozen locations across the United States, according to company founder Dmitry Shevelenko, who added that the robots are remote-controlled by humans, as opposed to autonomous.

The deployment in Detroit of the aptly named Tortoise robots — which travel 4 to 8 mph, Shevelenko said — serves as a kind of test with the city’s snowy and icy conditions.

“I would say for sidewalk robotics, Michigan is kind of like the equivalent of the phrase, ‘If you can do it in New York, you can do it anywhere,'” he said. . “So if you can operate in Detroit in the winter, you can go anywhere.”

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