Friday, February 12, 2010

Grow Bots in Local Agriculture; do we really want robots planting our gardens?

What Grow Bots students at Georgia Tech are aiming to identify is how can technology and robotics be developed to intersect the movement towards backyard and local community gardening. Evidently their sponsors are scrambling to capitalize on this movement. What they hope to find is that maybe techies and sponsors can come up with 'solutions' that will make gardening easier for Americans.

So you think having a "Grow-Bot" running your local garden is a smarter way to go?
We are currently in a world where the obesity rate is obscene, where our children are becoming lazy addicts who get no closer to the earth than with a video game called Farm Ville. We have reached a place where most US citizens are consumed with the quick and easy. And now we want to take this a step further by cutting out a portion of our culture that encourages activity, family, community and self sustainability? Encouraging gardeners to do their watering and fertilizing from a computer monitored sensor device? How is this a step in the right direction?

Lets focus on what's wrong with the technologies and the state of our industrialized farming methods and get back to basics. For crying out loud, most Americans don't know the difference between a strawberry and a tomato plant. How will robots help with our learning curve?

What we urgently need low tech solutions for is to reduce our dependency on petroleum, fertilizers and electricity. Help local farmer simplify their lives, get their produce to market, connect consumers with growers. Create an affordable biogas device to convert our toilet and compost waste to methane gas for heating our greenhouses. Give us passive solar and thermal water heat and cooling. Build software that creates active minds, teach integrative gardening, networks organic seed producers with microgreens farms, learn us about what plants make good companions, give us natural solutions to plant diseases and garden pests.

But keep the agriculture giants like Monsanto and John Deer out of our communities cause what will happen once they get their fingers in the pie is that their community growbots will turn into the same monsters that have destroyed the small farms across the country. Next thing you'll see is they'll be monitoring our every movement, radio-tagging our animals, forcing us to use their GMO seeds and fertilizers while building dependencies that undermine our movement away from the blight they have wreaked on our earth.

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