This open-source robotic innovation aims to make everyone a backyard farmer, letting you grow a variety of vegetables without ever having to look after them.
If you think that sounds too good to be true, you’re probably not alone.
Check out the video above to see how it works.
But a young startup community called Farmbot has recently released their product plans for a fully-automated garden robot system to handle everything to do with growing your own plants.
Designed and built using Open Source components, the system lets you design your dream garden (up to 1.5m x 3m) using a web app, load the various seeds into a bucket and the machine takes care of the rest.
The machine runs on rails which go along the side of the garden bed, and has a nozzle with multiple heads which take care of a number of tasks on a plant-by-plant basis, including:
- Picking up and planting the seed for where you want each plant to grow
- Watering each plant individually based on its optimised needs
- Checking the soil for things like moisture content to optimise watering schedules
- Using onboard cameras to search for weeds from above
- Killing weeds by pushing them back underground
It’s quite fascinating to watch how it works in the video.
The robot designs and software are also free for anyone to download and modify, in true maker movement open source fashion. If you want to build one yourself, you’ll need to have access to maker equipment, but all the required components (including alumnium, stainless steel, 3D printed parts, a Raspberry Pi and Arduino processor) are commonly available for anyone who would take on a build project like this.
Alternatively, if you’re more of a gardener than a maker and want a full kit already fabricated for you, Farmbot is taking pre-orders for full kits for around $2,900 on their website.
This story fits in with a growing number of international trends:
- A growing desire for organic food
- Urban gardening, especially on rooftops
- Appetite [sorry for the pun] for sustainably grown, varied polycrops (compared to mass-produced monocultured foods)
However, it has only been in the last few years that numerous innovations have converged to enable a product like this.
As inventor Rory Aronson outlines in his TEDx speech (video below) where he introduced his original idea to the world, it has been advances in numerous fields which now make a machine like this possible (including a worldwide maker movement, 3D printing, robotic image recognition and affordable open source processors).
So the next time you think that gardening is only for people who have green thumbs, you could always just use a machine like this and leave your own thumbs nice and clean.
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Would you rather spend time in the garden yourself, or could a machine like this encourage you to eat more vegetables? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.