“Have you seen the price of vegetables ?” I asked my wife after I returned home from the weekly shopping run “at these prices I think we should grow our own.”
Growing your own vegetables has become a popular alternative for many people. Not only is it cheaper than the local store but you can control the number of chemicals that you use in your vegetable patch.
Only one problem is preventing me (and other people) from planting and managing my own salad-providing-garden – its hard friggin work!
To successfully grow vegetables you have to know what you are doing. How to care for the plants, when to plant, how to remove the weeds (what do weeds look like so you don’t remove the wrong plants), how to check the soil, which is the best equipment to buy, when to water, how much to water etc. etc. etc. One wrong move and your entire crop yield fails. I speak form a bad experience so clearly, I am not green-fingered.
The FarmBot solution
Introducing the fully automated farming robot from FarmBot.io – The FarmBot Genesis. It is “humanity’s first open source, CNC, farming machine”:
Measuring at 1.5 meters wide and 3 meters in length, an ideal starter size, FarmBot is weatherproof and can be placed inside or outside or on rooftop gardens and it will take care of all your gardening need.
The FarmBot Genesis is programmed to plant and grow a variety of vegetables simultaneously in the same area as the FarmBot is able to take care of each plant in its own way. The system accesses OpenFarm which is a database that is freely available where OpenFarm provides planting instruction to FarmBot on how to plant and care for a particular food type. Want to grow carrots? you need to space them in rows 1 cm apart in full sun whereas cherry tomatoes need to be placed in full sun at 36cm row spacing and 36cm spread. Don’t worry – the system will do it for you.
The FarmBot is able to not only plant the seeds in any pattern you select but is also able to water each plant too with just enough water so not to drown it and minimize waste. FarmBot can even identify weeds and foreign plants that should not be in the garden and remove them!
The system works much like a 3D printer where the “head and arm” move across the X, Y and Z axis along tracks and a gantry. Much like a CNC machine can select tool for cutting or shaping metal, wood or granite, the FarmBot can use its magnetic head to choose the right tool for the job it needs to accomplish. There are currently several basic tools such as a seed injector, watering nozzle, soil sensor and weeding tools.
FarmBot is FREE
If that is not cool enough, the FarmBot system is all based on open source technology and the developer are giving it away for free. The software and hardware diagrams, code, CAD drawings and specs are made available so that users can modify and change the system for their own usage – even down to creating own heads and tools. All parts are designed to be printed by hobby-level 3D printers and even the electronics are open-source Raspberry Pi 3, Arduino Mega 2560, and RAMPS 1.4 shield
If you would like to purchase a ready-to-go kit from Farmbot.io where everything is in the box and ready to be installed, then the cost is $3900 (or get in on the July special at $2900. Your FarmBot should be with you in February 2017 if not sooner. If you are happy to source the materials yourself, then the cost is ZERO as all the info is available on the website.
While the founders of FarmBot say that their aim is not to end world hunger, this is a good start. The Shuttleworth Foundation agrees when the awarded Rory Aronson, FarmBot’s Founder, a Fellowship grant which allowed him to work full-time on the project since 2014.
In an interview with Suzanne Zuppello from Edible Manhattan, Rory Aronson is essentially asked why his business is giving its product away from free, Rory Aronson answered: “My drive in establishing this company is not profit. Everyone eats, so everyone should have the ability to grow their own food, with a little help. By making our growing guides as well as the specs to build a FarmBot totally open sourced, we’re acknowledging that we think we’re doing it the best while still being open to improvements entirely. If someone can do it better than me, I welcome that because that will push our mission and technology forward.”