In this age of non-GMO, home grown and fully traceable produce, backyard food gardening is on the rise. But it’s not without a few challenges—weeding, proper watering, and so on. What if you could automate many tasks required with gardening?
Rory Aronson, a mechanical engineer, hopes to capitalize on this trend with a first-of-its kind, open-source, CNC small-scale farming machine (the FarmBot) that helps automate gardening. FarmBot gives individuals the power to create a digital garden using a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. Home gardeners then build (or buy) the actual hardware and machinery needed to manage the farm automatically, including planting and watering crops.
About the size of a queen size bed, mechanically FarmBot is an X-Y-Z coordinate system with attachments for precise seed planting, watering, and weeding. Sensors read soil condition and send info to the software program that users use to plot their garden and schedule garden maintenance.
First launched in June of 2016, Aronson and his team crowdfunded support for FarmBot and completed an initial production run to provide working units to crowdfunders and early customers.
While looking for a way to speed up production of FarmBot hardware parts for the company’s second run, Aronson ran across the https://www.protolabs.com/Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) Cool Idea! Award. He knew that being able to leverage funding for production of part molds and parts could have a significant impact on the company’s speed-to-market.
“The reaction to FarmBot has been incredible, and we are excited to continue sharing this product with more customers around the world,” said Aronson. “The Cool Idea! Award came at the perfect time for us as we are transitioning from smaller quantities to larger production volumes.”
With the Cool Idea! Award grant, Proto Labs will enable Aronson and his team to continue refining some of their machine components, adding more parts to the FarmBot parts store. The store allows customers to build and customize their own units with pre-stocked parts. Initially, Aronson and his team have been using 3D printing and CNC machining for production. “While these methods have worked great in the prototype phase, now that we are increasing our quantities, we needed to look at other processes to decrease production costs and increase quality at scale,” mentioned Aronson. The award will help the team manufacture injection-molded parts as FarmBot continues to require larger quantities that 3D printing or CNC machining cannot produce at the needed quantity and quality for FarmBot’s continued progress.
Demand continues to grow for FarmBot, presenting an opportunity to move past the startup phase and to meet this momentum head-on through larger and more sustainable production runs. “FarmBot’s versatile application for everyone, from individual gardeners to educational institutions, is generating a lot of excitement in the maker community. We’re confident we can meet the growing demand thanks to the award,” said Aronson.
“The Cool Idea! Award enables innovative ideas to come to life regardless of where a product is in its development lifecycle,” said Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “By helping FarmBot make the jump to faster and larger production runs, they can now scale and bring this technology to more customers.”
Offered by Proto Labs, the Cool Idea! Award helps entrepreneurs bring innovative products to market through grants that support product prototyping, testing and production. For more details and to apply for a Cool Idea! Award, go to protolabs.com/cool-idea.
Proto Labs Inc.