Jun 13, 2016 | By Benedict

Entrepreneur Rory Aronson has developed the world’s first open-source CNC farming machine. The FarmBot Genesis, available to pre-order as a kit from July, is made from 3D printable plastic components, and can be used to remotely plant, water, and monitor a garden.

While mundane suburban life simulator The Sims was an inexplicably popular PC game in the early noughties, and while virtual metropolis builder Sim City had its own niche town-councillor-to-be fanbase, agricultural equivalent Sim Farm didn’t seem to have the same appeal. A silo here, a tomato patch there, some sheep in the corner…there’s only so much fun you can have protecting virtual crops from virtual aphids, right?

That’s what I initially thought, until my Facebook started getting more Farmville requests than personal messages a few years ago. Apparently everyone’s a greenfingers these days, as long as all the cultivating can be done on an iPhone. Here’s a crazy idea then: picture Farmville as it is, fired up on a smartphone or tablet, but imagine those digital crops each correspond to real-life greenery in your back garden. That’s essentially the premise behind FarmBot Genesis, a brilliant idea from entrepreneur Rory Aronson and his small California-based startup, which has built a 3D printed CNC farming machine, 100% open source, which can be controlled digitally through a simple web-based interface.

Aronson’s vision is to make precision agriculture open and accessible to all, and his FarmBot project looks set to do just that. The FarmBot Genesis system, the first scalable iteration of the concept, can be built for around $1,500 to $4,000, and features an intuitive, game-like interface through which users can tailor their patch to their liking. Maintenance sequences can be easily scheduled, allowing complete remote control over the miniature farm. Need to water different seeds at different times? Simply pop the time into the schedule, and the FarmBot hardware will do its thing using linear guides in the X, Y, and Z directions. The tools of the machine can even be controlled manually in real time.

“After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, I decided I wanted to reinvent the way food is grown in order to adapt to the growing use of technology in people’s lives,” Aronson said. “When I thought about rebuilding the agricultural process, a robot is what I pictured. It is quite literally a robotic device that someone can control through their smartphone or laptop. It’s simple enough to use in your home but sophisticated enough to adapt to a larger scale.”

Although building a garden-size CNC machine might sound like a massive task, Aronson has endeavored to make the project as simple as possible, by providing both full documentation for building your own and providing the entire FarmBot as a kit, starting July. At its core, the FarmBot system is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3, an Arduino Mega 2560, and a RAMPS 1.4 shield, all easily affordable. All of the digital farm’s plastic components can be made with a 3D printer, and the flat connecting plates required for the project can be made with a waterjet, plasma, or laser cutter; a CNC mill; or a hacksaw and drill press.

In order to cultivate whatever plants and vegetables you might choose to grow with FarmBot, Aronson has designed a number of digitally controllable tools which function just like their manual equivalents. Seed injection, watering, and weed suppression are all made simple with dedicated attachments, while the open-source nature of the project allows digital gardeners to create whatever extra tools they need before (hopefully) sharing them with the FarmBot community.

There are so many clever features devised for the FarmBot project it’s hard to know where to start. The system is able to gather and use real-time weather data, so it knows when watering is necessary and when it can let nature do the work. It can also store this rainwater in a barrel and release it at programmed times, and can even power itself with solar panels. The project is, of course, in its early stages, but there are endless possibilities for FarmBot, and only time will tell how users will put the system to use.

While the FarmBot project is entirely open-source, (all project documentation and files can be found on GitHub) Aronson and his team are also selling complete FarmBot kits containing everything needed to get started: electronic components, 3D printed parts, aluminum plates, and much more. These kits will be available for preorder in July. Watch this space.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Jack wrote at 7/23/2016 1:43:56 AM:

People need the exersize anyway.

Jack wrote at 7/23/2016 1:41:57 AM:

Price is a bit steep.

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