Robot gardeners

 Newsoffice 2009 Robogarden-2-Enlarged
MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab researchers have installed an indoor tomato garden tended by hacked Roombas. The idea made me nostalgic for Ken Goldberg's pioneering Tele-garden that was online from 1995 to 2004. MIT News posted a slideshow of their robot garden:
The idea for tending to a garden without human hands came from work done by Nikolaus Correll, a postdoctoral assistant working in MIT Professor Daniela Rus’ Distributed Robotics Lab. Correll saw the possible applications of swarm robotics to an agricultural environment and thus the idea grew into a course in which students created robots capable of tending a small garden of tomatoes. Each robot is outfitted with a robotic arm and a watering pump, while the plants themselves are equipped with local soil sensing, networking and computation. This affords them the ability to communicate: plants can request water or nutrients and keep track of their conditions, including fruit produced; robots are able to minister to their charges, locate and pick a specific tomato, and even pollinate the plants.
MIT's robot garden


  1. I want one of these. I could have it pick my tomatoes and deliver them right to my kitchen. Now if it could weed and water and replant and compost and pick off the horn worms…

  2. And the day moves closer when people no longer need people to provide for their wants and needs. Probably either paradise or genocide after that.

  3. Now we just need to hook up the robots to my g/f’s copy of Harvest Moon and we’re good to go!

  4. Some day soon robots will be pollinating more than just plants. Think of the gardens they can tend…

  5. So when will these be mass produced in China so American farmers can replace migrant workers?


    Some day soon robots will be pollinating more than just plants. Think of the gardens they can tend…

    Demon Seed anyone?

  6. machines of loving grace – machines of loving grace – machines of loving grace —- oh please – let it be – let it be NOW – woo hoo!!!!!!! (and silent running rocked)

  7. About a year ago, I saw a robot that picks tomatoes from their trees (bush? plant?) using a combination of a claw and suction on the japanese tv program Pythagora switch

  8. @JACK: thank you for the Demon Seed reference. Awesome movie.
    I thought part of the fun of having a garden was…working in it? Anyway, I still do love the idea, though. Maybe send these into the vacant lands of detroit and cleveland and let the robots tend the earth :)

  9. I just don’t see the point. Tomato plants will grow all by themselves, without any robots or humans tending them. You don’t even need to water them if you use a natural irrigation system.

  10. Hacked is right! The roobmas look like they’re little more than skateboards with T-600 terminators atop them.

    /not a robotics expert

  11. Does anyone know whether the manipulator was a commerical off-the-shelf technology as well? I know you can purchase an iCreate, but could someone purchase the manipulator arm somewhere? Or did MIT guys make that themselves?

  12. I would like to signal my co-membership in your subculture by dropping a reference to a movie that this reminded me of.

  13. Oh I loved “Silent Running” when I was a wee lad – my introduction to the melodious voice of Joan Baez. Really great special effects for the 1970s pre-Star Wars. Now I gotta rush and add ‘Silent Running’ to the latest Living Social Facebook- Movies-I-grew-up-with App, see ya!

  14. The arms are from CrustCrawler Robotics. The Create robot has an Atmega processor and does not run Linux, but the plants do (OpenWRT).


  15. Isn’t gardening meant to be an enjoyable leisure time activity for humans? Is nothing sacred?

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