(Not sure which category this belongs in, so I’m putting it here.)
I have been pondering ways to scale the Farmbot up so it can handle something closer to the size of a real farm.
Let me be clear on what I mean. I am NOT talking about 1000 acres. I’m not even talking about 1 acre.
I am talking about half an acre. If the farmer’s markets near you are anything like the ones near me, a decent percentage of those sellers probably grow on fields of half an acre or less.
There are tractors that can handle the big 1000-acre fields. But there’s not really much out there meant for mid-range fields, where it’s too big for one person to do everything by hand, but not big enough to justify a giant tractor.
On my farm, there’s the added complication of muscle and joint problems. Makes things interesting, that’s for sure!
The good thing about my land is that it almost never needs watered. The Farmbot I would need doesn’t have to have an irrigation function. In fact, if all it did was handle the weeding, that would eliminate about 90% of the day-to-day labor. It’s too windy here for mulch or fabric, and the weeds are downright aggressive! I’m happy to do the planting and harvesting myself, but I just can’t keep pulling weeds like I need to.
I’m thinking a wheeled bot, but with a guide of some kind to keep it within the lines. Something cheaper and simpler than the fancy aluminum tracks. It could be as simple as a strand of fence wire on each side.
Layout would be such that the bot can make a u-turn at the end of each block, taking it to the beginning of the next one, in a path designed to cover the whole field and bring the bot back to the starting point again. (I don’t have a sketch handy, but if you’ve ever played the old computer game “Snake”, you can probably picture it.)
The use of wheels instead of tracks means that it would probably have a hard time keeping track of it’s exact location within the block. Solution would be to have it ignore the individual plants, and just focus on the rows. Keeping the weeds down between the rows is still a huge job! There could be something at the beginning of each block that tells it what the row spacing is. Weeds within the rows would still have to be pulled by hand, but that would still be easier than weeding the whole field.
I’m not sure the “weed-punch” would be the best weed-control attachment for this job. I’m sure it’s great for soft garden beds, but not for large areas with the risk of erosion. I’m thinking a small blade, like a lawnmower blade, but tiny. 3-inches is a good size. It could even have multiple arms with that attachment, so it can go between multiple rows per pass.
If it could go through the entire field once a week, and mow the weeds between rows so they are 2" or shorter, that would be a huge, huge, help! I think that would eliminate about 75% of the work-hours I’m putting in, and 99% of the muscle-aches.
There were actually a lot more ideas I had, but they all seem to vanish when I’m at the keyboard.
Anyone have any thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Etc? Feel free to tell me how crazy I am.