Farming has long been a dicey endeavor with less than precise watering or growth monitoring methods. While no one has found a perfect approach to the ever changing landscape of agriculture, precision farming has been seen as a more efficient and sustainable model for the food industry. Most precision equipment can often be costly and only affordable for large scale farmers, but FarmBot, a relatively young company, has ushered in a new agricultural tool that anyone can use in their backyard.
FarmBot was founded by Rory Aronson when he realized precision farming can be made affordably and utilized by more than just professional farmers. The company is based in California, a state responsible for producing a large portion of the United States agriculture. This forward thinking mechanical engineer hopes the idea can make a positive change in farming industry.
FarmBot Genesis is a robotic system that takes the guesswork out of growing plants. It is programed to properly plant, water, and de weed your garden. Before you start thinking this product is as quick to set up as an Alexa or iPhone, you might want to first consider your Ikea building skills. The robot does require assembly, as it’s shipped in pieces with detailed set up instructions. As an open source software, the online FarmBot community and forum is always on hand to help guide you through any hurdles.
Once you’re ready to plant seeds, use the Farmbot’s app to virtually select the crops you plan to physically grow. The robot can be modified or expanded with additional features such as night lights. The system can also work off grid in tandem with rain collection and solar power tools.
There are some great perks of owning a FarmBot. While the upfront cost may be pricey, the cost savings of growing your own produce is arguably a financial benefit. FarmBot estimates that the return on investment is around three to five years and one kit grown year round is enough to feed one person. The robot also creates 25 percent fewer CO2 emissions than other United States vegetables so there is an environmental benefit to gardening with this sustainable tool. It’s also nice to know exactly where your food came from, which is not alway clearly indicated in stores.
FarmBot also gives back to its community. The company contributes one percent of their annual net revenue to promote their mission to, “grow a community that produces free and open-source hardware plans, software, data, and documentation enabling everyone to build and operate a farming machine.” Contributions can take the form of money, materials, or services that help grow the community.
The FarmBot isn't limited to one type of user and has a wide range of potential applications. It has been utilized as an educational tool for students at schools such as Virginia Tech University. As a less technical application, Thrive Upstate saw this as a unique therapeutic opportunity for their clients with disabilities. On a commercial level, small farms can save on costs while research labs can experiment more precisely. Other customers simply appreciate knowing how their food is being grown.