Genesis or Express?

Hi,

I am currently deciding between Genesis and Express, and I am struggling!

I have read both product descriptions and I am not clear on the exact advantages of the Genesis model vs. the Express?

Genesis vs. Express

Going forward we will have two product lines. The FarmBot Genesis will be the top tier product line and the Express will be the discount cost-reduced (economy) model.

Here are the main points of comparison between the two models:

  1. TRACKS: The Express model doesn’t have X-Axis tracks. It just runs on the wood of the raised bed, which means that the end-user is responsible for ensuring that the garden bed is adequate to support the FarmBot. Additionally, the Express model has not been tested in areas with high winds. In contrast, the Genesis model has been tested in high wind conditions and has several years of operating data that show good reliability in many different growing environments plus a set of tracks that provide a very flat travel surface.
    The tracks for Genesis still need to be wiped down occasionally to remove any dust or debris that will collect on the tracks in the growing environment.

  2. COMPUTING POWER: The Express model uses Raspberry Pi Zero which is a lower cost, and ultra “cut-down” variant of the Raspberry Pi Model B. The Raspberry Pi Zero is slower than the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and it features a 1GHz single core processor and 512MB of RAM. This is in contrast to the Genesis v1.5, which uses the latest and more capable model of Raspberry Pi 3 B+. The Genesis has a faster computer with better overall capabilities, particularly for dealing with high numbers of garden points. The difference in computing power is significant and noticeable, especially when syncing data.
    For example a task that would take the Genesis system 3 to 5 seconds may take the Express model 15 to 25 seconds to complete depending on the task. The difference in computing power is significant and the slower and less capable Raspberry Pi makes the Express model potentially more susceptible to system freeze-ups and crashes.

  3. NETWORK CONNECTIVITY: The FarmBot Express can only operate where there is a strong Wi-Fi signal. It can not operate where there is a weak Wi-Fi signal. If the Wi-Fi signal is weak, the Raspberry Pi Zero has no ethernet port for fallback.Another item to note is that if you are using Wi-Fi to connect the FarmBot to the internet, the Raspberry Pi Zero also uses 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol which may create a slower internet connection in comparison to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ computer which supports the faster 802.11ac Dual Band 2.4GHz & 5GHz Wi-Fi protocol.

  4. POSITIONING CAPABILITIES: The Express model doesn’t have rotary encoders so it does not have the ability to independently determine the position of the Universal Tool Mount (UTM). If there is an error while an action is taking place it stops the sequence and it returns to home. You will need to re-start any sequence that has been started. For example, if you are doing a watering sequence and for some reason the FarmBot gets impeded by a plant, it will need to re-start the entire sequence because it doesn’t know the location of the UTM. This problem is avoided on the Genesis model because it is equipped with encoders that perform step counting.

  5. COMPATIBILITY AND CUSTOMIZATION: The Express model does not have the capability to switch tools or to use the new tools that we are developing. The Express model only has the 3 in 1 tool head and it is permanently fixed to the tool mount. The FarmBot Genesis model has multiple tools and we will develop even more tools for the Genesis model. For example, we are currently developing a weed trimmer tool and an ultrasonic height measurement tool for measuring plants and to confirm the distance from the UTM to the soil. Upgrades to these tools will only be possible for Genesis models, which will see significant improvements in the future.

  6. LARGER SIZE: The FarmBot Genesis models are larger and service a larger garden area. The FarmBot Genesis v1.5 (Regular Size) has a service area of 1.5m x 3m. Whereas the FarmBot Express v1.0 (Regular Size) has a service area of 1.1m x 2.7m. The Genesis model offers a proven track record of reliability in the field and it is a better long term value despite having a higher initial price. We are also developing new tools and enhanced features for the Genesis model that will make the FarmBot even easier to use. The FarmBot Genesis model will also come mostly (50%) pre-assembled and we expect that it will take between 20 and 30 hours of set-up time.

  7. SETUP TIME: The FarmBot Express has one advantage over the Genesis model. It can be set up in approximately 1 to 4 hours. The FarmBot Genesis takes approximately 20 to 30 hours to set up. The set up time does not include the time to build your raised bed garden.

The full tech specs for comparison are located here: https://farm.bot/#tech-specs

SHOULD I BUY AN EXPRESS MODEL?

Before choosing a FarmBot Express over the Genesis model, it is important to consider:

  • If you are happy with the three tools provided by the Express tool head and do not have plans to upgrade or customize tools later.

  • The levelness of the garden bed you will be installing the device on. FarmBot Express is less tolerant of uneven surfaces and cannot be modified to account for bumpy garden bed edges.

  • The amount of time you are willing to invest. Genesis devices take longer to assemble than Express models.

  • The quality of the WiFi signal in your garden. FarmBot Express has a less receptive antenna than the FarmBot Genesis and does not offer an ethernet connection. This is an important point to consider even if you are able to connect to an outdoor WiFi network from a cell phone or laptop. The Raspberry Pi Zero has a significantly lower reception capability when compared to higher-end consumer electronics, such as smartphones and laptops. If you are unable or unwilling to install an outdoor WiFi extender or hotspot you should purchase a Genesis device rather than an Express device. The device requires excelent WiFi connectivity and is more sensitive to WiFi fluctuations than other consumer products.

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I’m sure you meant to write Genesis there :slight_smile:

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Thank you for the detail! I knew about the tracks but did not know about the lack of rotary encoders etc. Seems that Genesis is worth the investment :slight_smile:

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It seems that one of the main weaknesses of the Express is the Raspberry Pi Zero. Can it be upgraded easily to a Rasperry Pi 4? Both have the GPIO header that the Farmduino Express uses.

It is not easily upgraded because the larger Raspberry Pi 3B+ and RPi 4 are significantly larger and there may be issue fitting these computers into the Express Electronics box.

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So the electronics of both RPI 3+ & 4 are compatible, its just a physical issue?
I can easily 3D print an appropriate enclosure for the Raspberry Pi and attach it to the Farmbot enclosure or use a bigger enclosure.

The firmware doesn’t line up exactly between the Express and Genesis. Currently there is no capability to swap the RPi 0 with the RPi 3B+ (or 4) on the FarmBot Express. Unless you have significant firmware developer experience this type of hardware change is not recommended. We will not support any troubleshooting efforts and the swap out will void your limited FarmBot warranty.

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@petr @apshamilton
So I’ve installed, used and owned both the FarmBot Express and the FarmBot Genesis. I’m very lucky in that the FarmBot team was able to use my warranty to exchange my Express for the Genesis v. 1.5. There are many reasons I’m happier with the 1.5; the first being that it works. The Express isin’t done Firmware vs Software wise: it’s close, but after being fully installed, there are currently still issues. That being said: that will change, and perhaps by now they’ve closed the gaps.

I urge anyone to look at the features of the Genesis and compare them with the features of the Express. There’s a few things I’ve noticed:
The express doesn’t use tracks: your garden bed NEEDS to be 90 degrees x 90 degrees; flat; the wheels need to drive down it precisely; and the motors need to not be impeded because if they are (maybe by a plant branch?!) it’ll surely tweak the positioning and drive it right off the track (theres some protection against this, but in general mine just stopped because I cut corners on my bed)

The express has a “3 in one toolhead”, meaning it can:

  • Seed
  • Water
  • Weed

all in one tool.

The Genesis has six tools advertised; but they’re not “in one”

This may sound like a determent: it’s not. Because the tools are detached, they can be modified, upgraded, they can produce more tools, you can have many different tools and place them around your bed, they’re still developing new tools, if one of your tools break they just need to send you the one tool instead of an expensive “3 in one head”

Now, let’s break it down by tool:

Watering - On the Express; you have a tube output that outputs water based on your hoses output. Is it too strong? Buy a pressure regulator. This is a big deal, if you buy the Express, the Water is probably the most useful tool.
On the Genesis, it’s an attachment that disperses the water like a shower head; very well thought out, and a water pressure regulator is included!

Seed - the seed tool on the express is a vacuum needle thingy that tries to get a seed from a bin; the Genesis seems to be the same (I haven’t used it yet). Although the idea seems like it works, in practice it seems like a very imprecise piece for a CNC farming device that is meant for precision. I hope they devise a new method for this; and with the Genesis they can! (and it sounds like the have, and I just gotta get a new tool instead of a whole head!)

Weeder - the Express uses a drill. Using a drill on a very precise system may work; but the express is not precise and you’ll likely miss the weed. The genesis weeder looks like it can do some damage on the area you’re de-weeding. Honestly, in either case you’re going to have to go pull the weed out, so who cares. At least the Genesis you’ll be able to get it out!

Ok, so now Genesis Exclusive tools:
Seed container: If you’re planting a whole garden you’ll need more then the two side trays the Express gives you. The Genesis gives you the two side trays, but you also get way more seeds, and seed types with the seed containers. With the side things; you can seed two plants. With the containers, you have many options (and you can scale this up if needed!)

Soil Sensor: this is super cool. I live in Arizona; the sun and air eats up our moisture. With the soil sensor I, and even in wet climates, can test the soil to see that it needs additional water before watering. This means that over watering should be impossible, but also it means I’m not WASTING WATER!

So; with the Genesis I’m getting:

  • A developed platform, years in the making
  • A selection of tools that is replaceable, low-cost, and improving
  • A reliable track that provides a stable X-axis
  • A precise tracking along said tracks; so the bot knows where it is all the time
  • A more powerful Raspberry Pi as Marc mentioned above
  • A new electronics kit, with more buttons and options and indicator lights

With the Genesis, you don’t even need to build a bed – you could use leveled anchors and completely bypass the complicated bed setup.

The express is really good at keeping your garden wet; if that’s all you want, you should look into getting an irrigation system at probably half the cost.

One more thing the Express did that the Genesis didn’t, is come mostly built. To be honest, I think the Genesis could come the same way, mostly built: but they chose not to. It’s not a bad thing, I actually enjoyed putting it together, I was able to understand what was happening and why, and now I can fix it – but sometimes the instructions needed a little work, and sometimes I needed to redo some major steps because I didn’t read… Technically, I’m still not done building it yet, and I’ve been putting it together for three weeks. It’s a fun project, and I understand why and how everything works. But by buying the Genesis, it comes with the experience. Now I know how to fix my bot. How to modify it to what I want to get out of it. How to scrap it and make a 3D printer out of it if I want to. I won’t. But I know how to.

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