Urban Farmers Opting for Robots Over Pitchforks as Their Tool of the Trade

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Urban Farm Pod
Urban Farm PodCredit: Courtesy

A warm sun, the scent of moist earth, the sight of sheaves of wheat – who hasn't dreamed of living the 21st century version of the early Zionist dream after spending a weekend at a B&B in the north -- leaving behind a cramped suburban apartment and getting back to the land, eating food grown with the sweat of your own brow?

But many people who get into the nitty gritty of such a venture may decide instead to opt of for growing herbs on a kitchen window sill, which may sprout but then dry out within a week. If you are serious about this, however, there are some recent technological innovations that may advance your venture a step or two ahead, even if the closest plot of earth is an urban Tel Aviv park.

Robotic plot of land

The FarmBot Genesis gardening systemCredit: Courtesy

When it comes to urban farming technology, FarmBot Genesis has been getting a lot of attention lately. It's a robot that allows you to designate a small garden plot and to have it managed by computer, with nearly no human physical contact. The company behind FarmBot Genesis touts its technology as humanity's first open-source farming tool, meaning that the source code for the software used to create it is freely available for use by other programmers.

FarmBot Genesis can reputedly meet the needs of a 3 meter by 1.5 meter farm plot (about 50 square feet) for the entire year. The system can not only seed your plot but also water and even weed it. And it can all be controlled from your smartphone.

Kitchen countertop greenhouse

Admittedly most of us will not expend the effort to assemble and use Farmbot, but if you're looking for a less ambitious high-tech farming experience, and especially if you have no land, Foop may just be the thing for you. It's an attractive mini-greenhouse developed by the Japanese firm C'estec. Equipped with little cups with absorbent material that replace the need for soil, you can even monitor carbon dioxide levels in the greenhouse interior and host it on a kitchen countertop. And you can control the show from the convenience of the Foop smartphone app.

Seed Pantry's Grow PodCredit: Courtesy

Available to the public from September 2016, the greenhouse will cost about $360, although there is apparently a waiting list for the product following the advance sale of the first 100 greenhouses.

Foop countertop greenhyouse

A budget option

If you're looking for farming technology that will put a more minimal dent in your wallet, you may want to consider London-based Seed Pantry's product Grow Pod, which like the Foop greenhouse provides you with a little pod in which you can grow herbs without the need for a plot of ground. The product not only provides the pod, but also includes a monitor that alerts you when it's time to water your mini-garden. In Britain at least, it's priced at 35 pounds (about $45).

For the beauty of it

Although some may consider it more of a prototype suitable for display, the Urban Farm Pod is an impressive thing to behold. Developed by a U.S.-based non-profit organization called Terreform, it takes the idea of a growing pod for the home to its maximum design proportions. It's a kind of giant, modular spherical pod in which you can grow plants, and it's outfitted with an irrigation system and automated controls.

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