Precision Agriculture

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Open Electronics interview of Roy Aroson, creator of the FarmBot:

[Open Electronics] Would you describe and explain the concept of Precision, Data Driven Agriculture and the major positive impacts this could have on some key aspects like, land productivity, sustainability, environmental issues, resilience etc…?

[Rory Aronson] Precision agriculture, as I define it, requires knowing exactly where the plants are located, and tending to each one in a precise way. Because FarmBot is computer controlled and each plant is sowed and tended to individually, it is a precision farming machine.

Having such a high level of precision gives us a couple of enormous benefits. The first, is the unlocking of “Big Data” in agriculture, enabling data-driven decisions to be made. Combining soil and other data from many points on the farm, with other data streams such as historical data, yield data, and weather data, FarmBot can optimize how it grows each individual plant throughout its life cycle. Optimization and efficiency gains will come in the form of smarter watering, plant spacing, timing, application of pesticides and fertilizers, etc. And we all know that we need to be using less water and controlling groundwater pollution as much as we can.

The second benefit, is the ability to grow highly variable polycrops with a machine, without losing machine efficiency. This is only possible with FarmBot because each plant is sowed and tended to individually, like a human hand does. Polycropping enables the plants to work symbiotically with each other, attracting beneficial insects, providing nutrients and shade for each other, etc, all while building the soil’s fertility and reducing the need for external inputs. In addition, polycrops are more resilient to crop failure because they are closer to a natural system that just takes care of itself if properly designed.

[Open Electronics] Can we say that FarmBot is among the first step towards abundant agriculture and post-scarcity in food?

[Rory Aronson] I think so! By eventually removing human labor from the food production process without sacrificing the sustainability and integrity of the system, the price of good food should drop dramatically. In addition, if the FarmBot technology is adopted on a small scale, it will allow for a distributed food production system, adding to the resilience of the system and the self sufficiency of the FarmBot owners." (