Growing produce can be tiring and time-consuming – and if you’re forgetful, your plants will suffer the consequences. But now, there’s FarmBot Genesis: an open-source farming robot that can do the farming for you.
FarmBot looks like a 3D printer set up above a box of soil. To control the FarmBot, users control a game-like interface, which looks a lot like Farmville, from any device, including their smartphones. They can drag and drop crops for the perfect layout and design watering schedules for the plants’ entire lifetimes. The robot takes care of planting seeds, watering plants, and pulling out weeds, and it can account for weather conditions to change the way it waters plants. Users can also control the robot in real-time as well to scare away crop-threatening animals or show their friends how it works.
FarmBot uses information from openfarm.cc, an open database with farming information, to properly take care of plants. The machine is fully autonomous, so all the user needs to worry about is waiting for the plants to be ready to harvest.
The “open-source” aspect of FarmBot means that the code that makes it work is widely available and can be modified to the user’s liking. This type of product design is common for 3D printers so owners can alter their products or build their own.
This approach is especially helpful because there are so many aspects that can be personalized: water source, size of farming area, power source, height of plants and more.
The bot can be pre-ordered for $3,900 plus $75 shipping. Orders are expected to ship out in February 2017. The company’s blog also mentions that people can build their own FarmBot–and that it may cost $1,000 less to do so.
FarmBot is easy to setup and only needs internet connection, water, electricity and the planter bed to work. The company behind the bot seems more focused on making it an in-home product versus a scalable agricultural tool, according to their blog posts.
“We are focused on anyone who wants to grow food in a way that requires less energy, less transportation, and hopefully less water and time,” wrote Rory Aronson, one of the FarmBot developers, in a blog post.
If the company were to scale to an agricultural model on large-scale farms, it could potentially take jobs from farmers. Because many farms are in remote locations, internet connectivity may be unreliable.
However, one of the pros of up-scaling FarmBot could be the implementation of solar panels and other forms of sustainable energy. The technology also seems to be more efficient in using water than other automated watering systems already in use.
The ultimate goal of the FarmBot seems to be urban sustainability. The FarmBot could encourage more urban households to grow their own produce, but at a nearly $4,000 price point, it may be a luxury for most who can’t build their own. Yet the possibilities of city-funded, FarmBot-powered urban farms and farmers markets don’t seem so far off, and hopes for a more sustainable agricultural landscape in the city are in reach.
By Stephanie Brito