This story might more properly belong on RobotHugger, but with its open source DIY approach to small-scale food production, FarmBot is worth a look.
The old-school gardener in me is battling my high-tech early adopter side over whether or not this robotic farming device is a step toward greater food sovereignty or toward a dystopian future where robot overlords rule backyard farms. Sure, it’s easy enough to learn to garden the old fashioned way, on your hands and knees with your hands in the soil, but considering that one of the excuses for not growing some our own food is lack of time and lack of skills and knowledge, perhaps this automated and optimized small-scale farming approach could be a feasible solution for the techie foodies who would like homegrown food without having to have a green thumb.
FarmBot pushes all the right buzzword buttons – local food production, 3D printing, open source, DIY, CNC technology, drag-and-drop programming, smartphone app control, scalability – so it’s likely that just as shipping container farms and rooftop farming are coming into their own, this product will probably find its own group of robotic gardening boosters. However, it also just might be overkill, considering the amount of embodied energy in an aluminum and plastic farming apparatus like this, plus the energy required to monitor and run it, it might work out to less energy and a similar amount of money to hire an expert gardener to supply us with fresh vegetables for quite some time.
Take a look at the intro video for the FarmBot Genesis, “humanity’s first open-source CNC farming machine designed for at-home automated food production”:
“Genesis is designed to be a flexible FarmBot foundation for experimentation, prototyping, and hacking. The driving factors behind the design are simplicity, manufacturability, scalability, and hackability.”
Although I’m definitely not the target market for such a device, I was nevertheless impressed with the system, and can see these FarmBots going over like gangbusters with the same people who flock to automated countertop gardens and smart appliances and everything IoT (Internet of Things). After all, once you’ve got your smart home connected to your autonomous car, perhaps having an autonomous garden will be the new thing to have for keeping up with the Joneses.
FarmBot is available for pre-order right now, with the price for orders made during July sitting at $2900 (25% off the MSRP of $3900), with delivery expected sometime in February of 2017.