Whether you buy organic produce, grow your own, buy from farmers’ markets or even watch your own veggie patch fill with weeds because you’re ‘too busy with stuff’, you’ll have an opinion about this piece.
I came across this new startup whilst in NZ last week at a conference. Ironically I learnt about this not from the conference but from a tourist sidebar to a local glass artist, and during an hour of chatting about sustainability he told me about ‘Farmbot’.
Farmbot is a a tech startup in the US and is touted as ‘Humanity’s first open-source CNC (Computer Numerical Control) farming machine’ – in effect a DIY farming robot for your own back yard.
When I first heard about this I thought ‘wow – game changer’, yet when I opened the first Youtube clip to find out more about it I had an instant gut reaction along the lines of ‘… but why can’t people get their hands dirty and plant the food and tend it? Are we giving up on kids learning how to grow food?’
I’ve written many posts over the past few years on the benefits of growing our own food, not only for sustainability outcomes but also for personal physical, psychological and even social health… are we now saying that we should surrender all of that to a robot?
After a week of letting this idea gestate I’m now starting to see that there could actually be a range of benefits to deploying Farmbots, as yet untapped. Keeping in mind that this is a newly launched open source DIY technology, clever humans will naturally tinker with the design & coding etc. and no doubt create a diverse array of applications.
We could see derivations of Farmbot emerge on public lands to grow community food, installations for social or affordable housing, back yard veggies for people who are literally unable to tend a garden, and in particular scaled-up infrastructure for farming communities. One of the key tasks of the Farmbot is that it removes weeds without chemicals – therefore chemical free and zero labour costs.
In reality, as with much of the emerging tech that we’re now presented with, I think there will be a perfect balance somewhere between human and robotic farming, a partnership. Imagine the Urban Farmer commanding a fleet of Farmbots to help with the workload.
And when (not if) someone blends this new tech with mobile drones then we’ll really be onto something interesting… : )