Post Scarcity Robotics

Post Scarcity Robotics | Imagine a world where robots do the boring work, and humans can focus on pursuing their happiness.

Open source robots for farming

Farmbot is an open source robot that automatically grows food for you. I really love Farmbot and I can still remember the first time I saw it, I was flabbergasted.

Farmbot is the first of its kind. However, I don’t think it is the last, and in the future I think and hope that more and more tedious work can be done by robots. Best of all, it will not be by robots that someone else owns who can reap the benefits. But robots that we all can build and own together.

Given that Farmbot is the first product to make it in this new and exciting space, it is natural that there is room for improvement. I think it would be useful if it could grow food on a larger area, and also if this area could be less exactly defined than an oblong.


A rack rail system

My hypothesis is that a solution to the limitation of Farmbot would be to use a robotic arm mounted on a rack rail. To imagine what it would look like, think of a miniature roller coaster where the roller coaster cart can move to exact positions with millimeter precision. On the roller coaster cart, there is a robotic arm which also operates with millimeter precision. The arm can use a variety of different tools.

If you have an existing garden, you can easily put a few poles in the ground and let this little roller coaster slither along to visit all your plants. If you prefer to grow your plants in rows, you can build the rail go along or between the rows.



I will investigate different approaches on how to build this kind of rack rail. For the robot arm, I plan to use the Moveo arm. The topics for the research will be:

  • What sort of precision can be achieved?
  • Given the precision, what sort of work can the robot actually do?
  • What will all the little practical twiddly problems be?

The goal is to have a functioning prototype of the rack rail system, with data on what it can do. All designs and source code will be shared as open source on sites like Thingiverse and GitHub.

A generic solution

I got this idea in the context of Farmbot, and that’s where I want to use it first. However, it is interesting to note that it is a generic solution. The problem that it is solving is to make the useful area of a robot arm larger. To illustrate this, we can think of the utility of a robot arm as being proportional to the precision with which it can operate, and also proportional to the area in which it can operate with this precision. For example, the a robotic arm might have a repeatable precision of 1 mm, and it can operate using this precision in a circle which has a radius of 50 cm. I.e. the robot arm can operate at its precision in an area which is 0.8 square meters.

If this robot arm would be mounted on a rail that is 3m long, this area would suddenly become  3.8 square meters. An arm mounted on a 3m rail can be said to be 5 times more useful than a stationary arm, given that the rail has the same or better precision as the arm.

So what else could be done with this kind of arm on a rack rail? Perhaps a robot for cooking? Or for tending a bar of a café? Or a robot to automate the removal and packing of 3D printed parts, so you have a 3D printing factory? Let’s see what the future holds!


Here you can see how the work has progressed so far. Make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss an update!

Update 1: Wheels, shaft collars and an initial rack test. Sponsored by NoLocation.

Update 2: It can roll back and forth on it’s rail! And we talk to Lydia from Trybe. Sponsored by The Onion Collective.

Update 3: It can actually move! And I have done some experimentation with the rack and the rail connections. Sponsored by LOOK8.

Sponsor the research

You have the opportunity to sponsor one of these videos! The videos will be posted on this page, and also on forums where people who are interested in robots and making. I will mention a bit about your business and show your name and logo. This way you have the chance to reach makers and digital nomads all over the world. Take the chance!

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