I publicly professed that I quit vegetable gardening a few years ago. It didn't enjoy it very much, and my time and money were better spent at the farmers market. But, when I saw the video for the FarmBot, I thought, "Maybe I could take up gardening again, if the robot did all the work."
The FarmBot is open source. Founder Rory Aronson told Agfunder that all the ideas and plans for the robot are anyone's for the taking, and he welcomes input from anyone who can improve on what he and his team are creating. The machine is still in research and development in Aronson's own yard, but the goal is to ship the first FarmBots next February. Preorders began last month, and the goal was to get $100,000 in preorders. They exceeded that goal with $813,000 in preorders.
The FarmBot kit costs $3,100 plus $75 shipping, but here's the thing about open source: All the specs are online, and someone can buy the parts and build a FarmBot on their own. Anyone can create their own FarmBot kit and sell it, too. They could create a larger or smaller version of the FarmBot to fit the space they have.
If the comments on the YouTube video above are any indication, many people see this as a waste of time and money, the height of laziness and hipster nonsense.
I see it as innovation. It's exciting. It's the start of an idea with an invitation by Aronson to others to run with his idea and improve upon it. This robot could be the start of something that opens up home gardening to some. People who would love to walk out into their yard and pick fresh food for their meals but don't have the time or the desire to garden traditionally may now have option.
I acknowledge the price tag is steep and not everyone can afford over $3,000 for it (although it may be less expensive to build yourself). FarmBot's blog estimates that the return on investment can happen in just three years, taking into consideration the amount of food it will produce as well as taking into consideration the time and money it costs to go to the market.
I know this: I never saw a positive return on investment from my own backyard gardening. I always spent more setting it up and trying to keep the critters away than I got in vegetables. That's just me, though. I know people who love gardening who grow an overabundance each year. I was never able to do that.