A friend of mine just shared a link to a very cool new Kickstarter project called FarmBot. It just so happens, they blew by their $100,000 goal today (they're at $103k and counting), with over two weeks to go on the crowdfunding platform. Powered by open source software, FarmBot is a CNC machine built for home farming. The basic unit is priced at $2,900 for pre-orders. The kit's footprint is approximately 4' x 10', big enough to sustain one person's diet of fresh vegetables year-round. It's also scalable and extensible, making FarmBot capable of delivering a commercially viable automated farming operation.
Founded and currently operated by a team of three (Rory, Rick and Tim) out of a home on Upham Street in San Luis Obispo, California, FarmBot is a Benefit Corporation, dedicated to open source hardware, software and business practices. FarmBot has a great deal of community support from Kickstarter fans, but the support started much earlier, with a grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation. According to FarmBot, the grant helped to fund Founder Rory Aronson's work for a year, starting in March of 2014. Additionally, FarmBot credits support from OpenBuilds, Willowfields Enterprises, and 3Design Products.
Drag & Drop Farming
You can graphically design your farm by dragging and dropping plants into their map. The game-like interface is learned in just a few minutes, so uptime is quick and painless. Plants are automatically spaced and growing regimens can be applied upon planting.
Additionally, you can build complete regimens for taking care of a plant throughout its lifetime by scheduling sequences to run when a plant is a certain age. Regimens can be reused, which is designed to save the owner time and effort during replanting. Farmbot also touts custom sequences of operations, with no programming required, to take full advantage of hardware to simply drag and drop basic operations and other sequences together, adjust the parameters, and save.
Open Vegetable Farming, Powered by a Raspberry (Pi)
Good news, Raspberry Pi fans, FarmBot is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3, Arduino Mega 2560, and RAMPS 1.4 shield. All sourcecode is open source for the FarmBot project. The hardware itself is also open source, so mods can be made easily and pain-free. Documentation is online and under the public domain, by design. All of FarmBot’s plastic components are designed to be 3D printed with hobby level FDM printers. FarmBot’s flat connecting plates can be made with a waterjet, plasma, or laser cutter; CNC mill; or even a hacksaw and drill press. Plus, FarmBot is built for one, but it's designed to easily scale larger in any direction with additional hardware, or smaller for tighter growing spaces. For a quick preview of FarmBot, check this video out: