This is Rory, sharing with you the story of inspiration for the FarmBot project and how it got to where it is today. It all started my 3rd year of college (2011) while at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I was studying Mechanical Engineering but decided to take an Organic Agriculture class to help fuel my interest in farming, gardening, and food.
One day, a guest speaker and local farmer came and spoke to the class. His name was Alain; he was an elderly man but very up-to-date on his agriculture technology. He drew for us on the board a spiral looking line and turned around, very excited and pleased. I can still see the twinkle in his eyes as he told us about his newest tractor: one with a camera, a computer, and the ability to tell the difference between weeds and lettuce! This tractor used a cultivation tool, similar to a pirate's hook, to churn up the soil in a spiraling fashion as the tractor drove forward, killing all weeds in its path. Then, when the computer detected a head of lettuce, the pirate hook would "skip a beat" and pass over the lettuce, keeping it in tact. The system came at a cost of a half a million bucks, but with the long term vision in mind, would be more cost effective for Alain then hiring labor to do the weeding.
But while staring at the chalkboard I couldn't help thinking: isn't there a better way of knowing where you planted your lettuce? In some sort of stroke of genius, I realized I could accomplish the very same task in a much more simple and elegant way. If I put the tractor on fixed tracks, I could know exactly where the tractor was located in relation to the ground and the plants, much like a printer head knows where it is in relation to the paper. It would be like a 3D printer, but for farming! I called the idea Tracked Agriculture, or TRAG Systems, and it is the foundation for what FarmBot is today.