Economic model with a full open-source

First of all, I must say the project looks awesome and very promising. Let’s hope to conquer the world!

There’s something bothering me though… what is the economic model ?

I’ve been looking all over the website and appart from buying the kit, I don’t see any source of money… and although the kit seems expensive it’s already sold for cheeper by others (a guy is making his publicity all over this forum!)
A big up for the full open-source by the way but I’m afraid of the project’s long term serenity…

(I did a bit of search because I know a lot of Open-source projects but found none with this kind of business model !)

Hi @JapiBa,

Great question! Many people are confused about the business opportunity of FarmBot when I tell them that it is open-source. However, having an open-source product is not at-odds with being able to make money and have a financially sustainable enterprise. There are several high-profile companies that do just this: Ubuntu, Lulzbot, Red Hat, SparkFun to name a few. Our company is no different. We sold over $1,000,000 in product in our first 6 months of having it available for sale, despite the fact that any of those customers could have made a FarmBot on their own using the open-source documentation.

The reality though is that building your own device from the open-source documentation is a lot of work, requires a decent amount of expertise, and is a much more daunting task than most people want to get into. Just putting together a kit can be a lot of work, but doing that in addition to going all over the internet sourcing parts, working with machinists to get plates made, 3D printing things, etc is just too much for most people. Furthermore, manufacturing something as complex as FarmBot at a small quantity (one device, for example) is not cost effective compared to manufacturing at scale (hundreds of devices). If you look at our Bill of Materials you’ll see roughly what it takes financially to build a single FarmBot, and it is close in price to what we are selling kits for. If one does decide to build their own device, in the end they are likely going to end up with a lower-quality product that is somewhat more hacked together. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the fact of the matter is that a kit produced by a company at-scale is going to be a lot nicer than what most people can build themselves. You can see photos of our hardware on our bill of materials pages and also in this gallery that we put together a few days ago. By the way, I want to be clear that I’m not trying to discourage anyone from building their own bot, but I do want to convey that buying a kit from a company is likely the better option for most people.

Regarding other businesses building and selling FarmBots: this is actually what we want because this project is not just about building a single business. What we’re trying to build is an ecosystem of DIY builders, consumers, nonprofits, academics, and companies that are working with FarmBot and pushing the technology forward faster and to more people than fewer individuals or organizations could do. Having more companies to buy a product from means more choice for consumers. Companies will hopefully specialize and cater to certain demographics and consumer needs. For example a company could specialize in FarmBots adapted for growing mushrooms. Another company could focus on sales in their country and offer better installation service and maintenance plans than a company abroad could. Another company could specialize in more industrial versions of FarmBot suited for commercial growing operations. And ideally, these various companies will take their revenue and channel it into open-source R&D efforts that improve the technology for everyone.

If this technology is to become as widespread and adopted as we hope, then there is ample opportunity for hundreds if not thousands of entrepreneurs and companies to get involved. This will only add momentum to the project.

Hope that all makes sense :slight_smile:


Sorry for not having answered promptly, I have been quite busy those last few days.

Your answer is great, thank you very much. I’m going to look a bit more deeply into the code, last time I looked, some French translations needed a tweaking!

Once again, congratulation on your project, I think it has a bright future!