Open Source Urban Farming
November 7, 2015
Forward thinking urban agriculture – better than remote control and SMS reminders. Beyond the DIY hydroponic system, and the reclaimed materials urban garden planter – there are those who see how much the world needs food produced with less trial and error. Fresh fruits and veggies that are easier to grow thanks to computers and robotics. You might say that this is the future of precision gardening at home, though it could be used to feed a community. And there is already an option for indoor growing and outdoor gardens.
The computer savvy techie will know exactly what that means. For the rest of you, it is software or programming that is free for anyone to use, adapt, or improve. It’s also has no price tag, though sometimes Open Source becomes part of something that the author collects a license fee from users, or hardware inventors modify to run products they sell. But in this case, it’s free… at least so far.
Naturally, you’ll have to buy the parts, materials, and hardware to build either system, but plans to DIY are free. Both these initiatives came to life with the idea to help the world feed itself efficiently.
Computerized Urban Farming
There are two completely projects already in the works. One is the Food Computer, and the other is FarmBot. Both are innovations designed for the urban gardener or farmer with a keen focus on precision that gives you a better harvest more efficiently. Both involve robotics and open source programming, they’re data driven, and collaborative initiatives.
FarmBot is fully automated CNC system for soil-based outdoor growing that does everything including the weeding. This project launched last year following a Kickstarter campaign. Though it appears to be getting off to a slow start, FarmBot has merit, and is worth investigating for busy people who want fresh homegrown produce with less involvement. You will have to harvest your food manually. There are too many variables to automate the picking when you’ve got many different types of crops planted, besides harvest is fun.
The Food Computer is for indoor growing using any type of hydroponic system. It gives the grower total control over the harvest by using climate recipes you can fine-tune to produce foods with a desired fingerprint – such as a distinct taste, or super rich in a particular beneficial element. It’s OpenAG, from MIT Media Lab, and officially launched on October 16th. They’ve developed three sizes to fit every need: the Personal Food Computer with a tabletop version with a 4-square feet footprint, the Food Server is the size of a shipping container, and still under development is the technology for a warehouse sized urban farm dubbed the Food Data Center.
The Food Computer
FarmBot has improved a great deal over the past year, and it looks like it’s only going to get better after their new Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Currently, the project is a finalist for TheHackadayPrize.
As it says on the OpenAG website… Through the 10,000 years we’ve had agriculture there have been 3 revolutions that totally changed society. Now we’ve reached the point that a new revolution is greatly needed. What will it look like, and how will impact society?
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