Big Bend Community College has partnered with the Center of Excellence for Agriculture (COE Ag) to purchase FarmBot, autonomous farming robots. These machines are like a CNC machine said Jim Leland, veteran resource officer and student in Big Bend’s UAV program. “Automation is the future,” Leland said, and noted that the FarmBot product covers many disciplines in a community college setting such as unmanned systems, horticulture, culinary, and even IT/programming functions. The FarmBot is a robot on a track, controlled by open source software and a control panel that weeds, seeds, waters, and monitors the garden.

Leland initially had the idea of using FarmBot as a project to help disabled veterans with farming. “This enables disabled veterans to garden in their own raised garden bed, or it could be used at the VFW or something like that,” Leland said. He then started thinking about their Japanese student exchange program and how students could learn how to use the FarmBot to bring home technology in stacked gardening with FarmBot. Last, he figured the students in unmanned and autonomous systems, and mechatronics, could learn to work this ground-based system as they are learning aerial autonomous systems.

Lindsey Williams with the COE Ag said they funded the cost of $3,500 as a pilot with the schools. She would like to see it used in horticulture programs in the future. The term is for a 2-year test period.

FarmBot, Inc. 
San Luis Obispo, California