This mini super-machine, developed by an enthusiastic team from California, is all-three-in one: it plants seeds, pulls weeds, and even waters your plants one by one! Amazing, isn’t it?
By help of drones (which are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), that is aircrafts, either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission) the face of agriculture, as we know it, may ultimately change in the near future.
In Indiana last month, many commercial cultivars had the chance to see in action AgBot Challenge. Yet, it is not just commercial farming that could reap benefit from these technologically-advanced autonomous robots.
A specific example is FarmBot, whose autonomous kits called Genesis will be available for pre-order this week, is simply designed to be a ‘Baywatch’ of your home vegetable garden, or even backyard orchard.
Although its ‘cultivating ambitions’ might be of smaller-scale than those of complicated massive contraptions that can remotely plant miles of seeds, still Genesis looks incredibly impressive and promising! Developed by a team of ‘lucky three’ engineers from California, the kit is an autonomous machine that’s installed atop and around a small garden—in your backyard, on a rooftop, or inside a greenhouse or lab.
Once it is mounted, the Genesis generates nearly the full gardening process prior to harvesting, which includes planting the seeds, watering each plant precisely, and on a beforehand-set schedule, monitoring conditions, and pulverizing pesky weeds.
This is how Genesis works:
As the trailer shows, the Genesis slides along tracks installed alongside the garden box, with the main arm also shifting left and right and popping down into the soil to perform its multi-tasking functions. Once it is given instructions, FarmBot, like a busy worker, can be left to its own devices to follow the planting and watering schedules you set, right until the veggies are ready to crop.
While it is a pretty high-tech device, the interface is very simple. The Internet-connected FarmBot is controlled via a web app that uses a Farmville-esque visual grid, letting you drag and drop the kind of plants you want into your “digital garden.”
So far, the Genesis has 33 common crops loaded into its software (chard, artichokes, potatoes, peas, squash, etc.) and it automatically spaces the varying plants appropriately, taking the guesswork out of having a diverse garden. The ease of it is that the app can be accessed from a PC, smart phone, or tablet, so you can ‘fine-tune’ your plan from anywhere, and send it to your backyard FarmBot.
What is rather surprising about Genesis is the fact that it is a fully open-source project. This means that the creators have released the source code for the software and the blueprints for all of the hardware pieces, so that coders and engineers can easily find new modifications of Genesis and build their own parts.
Many components can be made using 3D printers, and the software can be also tweaked to add features or to improve those set by the company’s defaults.
That open approach and focus on expandability also means that you can personalize Genesis for your garden lots and specific needs. Case in point: you can hook up a solar panel to power the ‘bot, or you can use a rain barrel to irrigate rather than connect a hose.
Genesis is also sort of a meteorologist: It monitors real-time weather conditions to better plow your garden plants.
Indeed, Genesis is the very first commercial version of this autonomous gardening plan, allowing for planting spaces up to 2.9 meters × 1.4 meters, with a maximum plant height of 0.5 meters. It’s an all-in-one kit with nearly everything you need to jump start, including all the metal and 3D-printed pieces—the nozzles, motors, belts, and pulleys—a Raspberry Pi 3 computer, and plenty more.
You will need to build your own planter bed following the specifications, as well as provide the water, electricity, and Internet sources. Programming or sophisticated engineering know-how is not required at all: The kit comes with a step-by-step guide. If you can get through an IKEA furniture setup, you should be able to put together Genesis (take my word for it!). But if you are a techie nerd, you can do much more with it if you want to, of course!
The Genesis kit will begin pre-orders this July 1st although it is unclear when FarmBot will start shipping—or exactly how much the kit will be priced. A blog post on their site last week suggests that the all-in starting expense for Genesis will be about $3,500, but that includes features like shipping, infrastructure, soil, and other setup expenses.
In between, a report from New Times SLO suggests that the kit itself will be sold at about $2,900, but the designer, Rory Aronson, says they hope to eventually get the cost closer to only $1,000 down the sales line.
It may seem as a pricey gadget for now, but the Genesis kit is for early adopters, who want the entire thing ready for accommodating —and don’t mind ‘riding the early wave of new technology.’
Given the open-source approach, one should not be surprised if they can eventually buy different sorts of kits and supplement them with their own parts, expand upon the core kit with an extra hardware, or even assemble their customized FarmBot from scratch!
FarmBot’s documentation hints at ambitions for larger-scale farming ‘bots (just dare to imagine this technology on acreage!), so the Genesis kit could be just the harbinger for this high-tech farming revolution. And the name Genesis just perfectly fits this machine’s revolutionary mission!
Finally, it looks like no realm of our modern living can go un-digitalized and even un-droned. However, it is for the better because digitalization frees our hands for other things we have always wanted to do, but never had time for them.