Why isn't there a garden robot?
Indoor Hydroponics: It is stunningly easy to grow your own food. For an investment of about $30, you can grow all the lettuce you need without pesticides, year round, at a cost of less than $1 per salad and about 4 salads a week. Cherry tomatoes and radishes also grow well.
Watering: About the most we have today are drip watering systems with automatic timers. There aren't even commonly available systems that measure and react to the actual water content in the soil.
Backyard Garden Automation: They can fly a camera on three winches
over a football field, why can't we rig up a hose, seed and rabbit pellet
dispenser, micro weed eater, and camera?
http://makeprojects.com/Project/Build-a-Wirebot/744/1 (pictures^ ) A "wirebot" can hang above a garden on three poles and "fly" over the plants taking pictures for remote review, probing the soil for moisture level, and if fitted with a gripper or something like the "Awecome Auger^" could remove weeds, dig small holes to plant seeds, etc... The instability of the wirebot head can be improved by running /two/ wires from the head to each pole, one high and one low holding the head top and bottom. A motorized winch is being developed at:
How about a social web site that shows an overhead picture of your garden and invites people to play a "game" of nuking your weeds, complete with CGI explosions of the targets. The aggregate result, less protected areas where you know there are plants, can direct the robot to weed the area.
When growing food outside, the key is monitoring and data, then protection and automation.
Monitoring: Almost every crop of veggies I've lost in the garden has been because I didn't notice what was going wrong until it was too late. Aphids cover the leaves and I don't see them until it's too late. Scale takes down my peppers because I didn't look at the stems close enough. The watering system breaks or fails and I don't notice the drooping leaves.
A webcam that let's you check anytime is a start. But we need both the overview and the details. We need a camera that moves around and takes close up pictures of everything every day. Those can be stitched together to make one ultra high resolution photo which is stored away. Now we have a time machine. One plant dies, what symptoms did it show in the days before? Are other plants showing those same symptoms?
A wire bot can fly on cables from poles above the garden. When it's not in use, it will go up high above your head and watch the garden for rabbits, or dogs or whatever. Once a day, it comes down, takes those pictures, and then goes back up. If it sees movement, it will alert, alarm, and possibly come down to chase off the intruder.
Next step is soil moisture probes, and a thin hose to do watering to custom levels for each area.
Then it can use those probes to kill weeds by stabbing them. Or maybe that will need a little auger. Anything that grows in the wrong place is a weed. Or "weed" from your office by clicking on the picture where you see the weeds growing. Or crowd source it.
Finally, we add a seed planting system. And then it's a fully automated farm.
Aquaponics is a popular and innovative method for reducing the inputs required to produce both plant (hydroponic) and fish (aquaculture) by combining the two systems: The plants clean the fish waste out of the water by using it as their fertalizer, and the fish food becomes the input instead. The main reduction is in water needed. However, in a small system, water quality issues can cycle very quickly and get out of control before a human notices. Robotic systems to monitor and perhaps react to water quality issues is critical and very lacking. Currently, the electronic sensors for those test (e.g. Ph) are very expensive and require frequent replacement.+
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<A HREF="http://www.piclist.com/techref/other/robogarden.htm"> Automated Gardening, Garden automation, drip watering</A>
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