From cash-crop farmers to planter-box gardeners, people who choose to grow their own food tend to be fairly committed to the do-it-yourself mentality. The Internet of Things offers plenty of opportunities for DIY-ers to automate food production — and while most home gardeners won’t have reason to build a self-driving tractor, any small-scale agricultural project could benefit from assembling a FarmBot.
Created by Rory Aronson, FarmBot is an open-source automatic gardening system that resembles a 3D printer. Installed over any rectangular garden plot up to 20 square meters, the rail-mounted machinery can handle planting, watering, fertilizing, applying pesticides, and collecting sensor data on the health of plants and soils. As it zips back and forth over the crops, FarmBot automatically swaps between magnetically mounted tools designed for each job.
The entire contraption is made out of weather-resistant aluminum, steel and 3D-printed plastic parts. It’s controlled by a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino Mega with a RAMPS shield, which was originally designed for the RepRap self-replicating 3D printer project.
Once the system is installed, FarmBot essentially takes care of itself. Instead of getting their hands dirty, gardeners use a web app to design the layout of their garden, choose which plants to grow, and set how they should be cared for. It’s a lot like a farm simulation game, minus the simulation — come harvest time, your “score” is measured in actual home-grown food.
Every bit of FarmBot’s hardware and software is open-source, and there’s a growing community dedicated to sharing ideas and iterating on the design. Aronson plans to run a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 that will put FarmBot kits on the market; if you plan to build a FarmBot for yourself in the meantime, expect to spend between $1,500 and $4,000 depending on the size of your installation.
Learn more in the video below, or at FarmBot’s Hackaday page.