“Farm from anywhere” is a phrase we’re likely to hear more and more of as technology enables easier access to fresh, locally grown food. We just wrote about Babylon Micro-Farms, a remote, hydroponic farm you can keep inside your living room. There’s also a healthy urban farming market: thanks to companies like Farmshelf and Smallhold, restaurants, schools, and the average consumer get better access to fresh food and more involved in the food production itself.
But no one’s tackled the reinvention of farming quite like the folks at FarmBot.
FarmBot is basically precision agriculture for the people. When he launched the FarmBot project in 2011, founder Rory Aronson wanted to find a way to bring the benefits of remote farming to the everyman without the hefty price tag.
Precision agriculture normally involves technology like self-steering tractors and aerial drones that can make better use of resources. Because the method uses real-time data to understand weather, air quality, labor costs, and other factors, growers can make smarter decisions about how much and how often to employ resources. As its name suggests, precision agriculture provides meticulous records of every single step of the growing process.
Historically, it’s been the territory of industrial farmers. But thanks to Aronson, anyone with a little space and (considerably less) cash can get involved in food production.
Both FarmBot products, made up of cartesean coordinate robots along with software and documentation, can work on rooftops, in backyards, and can accommodate both small- and large-scale farming operations. It’s unclear whether the company means “farm from anywhere” literally, as it says on its website. But considering the highly customizable nature of the product, anyone with some tech know-how could theoretically hack the bot and make it work in any given climate.
A visual interface lets you “plan your garden like a videogame,” according to the company’s website. So the fact that the interface looks a bit like FarmVille is no coincidence. You can drag and drop plants into the virtual plot of land (below), build care regiments, and even scare away birds.
After the garden is planned, the machine plants seeds, measures soil moisture content and water, and can detect and destroy weeds. Email alerts tell a user when the crops are ready for harvest.
It’s also open source, including the hardware, software, and documentation. That means all design files, source code, and hardware specs are available for free on the company’s website, so anyone can customize their farm without having to fork over a bunch of extra money.
Right now, the FarmBot Genesis goes for $2,595 via the company’s website. The FarmBot Genesis XL, which is available for preorder, costs $3,295 and covers “421 percent the area of for just 38% more cost.” Shipments of both machines are expected to go out in May of this year.
Aronson would eventually like to get the price point down to $1,000. It’s unclear whether that will happen soon or if it’s some ways off. Meanwhile, FarmBot is making its way into universities and non-profits, and the company is working with NASA to develop open-source food production on Mars, the Moon, and deep space. Remote farming indeed.
All images courtesy of FarmBot.