It even emails you when your crops are ready to harvest.
The virtual crop-dropping and animal-herding world of Farmville is so addictive that pretty much everyone with a Facebook account has had a brief month of madness in which they sleep, breathe and live their own pretend working farm.
Now, it looks like all those hours spent lovingly arrange rice paddies, and sleepless nights wondering how you’ll ever be able to afford that silo are about to pay off. This Farmbot robot is a crop-growing machine that lets you design and tend to your own very real patch of crops in your garden from a game-style app on your phone, tablet or desktop.
With a bit of the old tappy-swipey, you can practically manage your own backyard farming empire without even leaving the sofa. From the app, you can graphically design how your garden will look by dragging and dropping plants onto the map, plant seeds, water them, add nutrients, do the weeding, and even get information like temperature and soil factors.
Farmbot will even drop you a message when it’s time to go and reap your harvest.
It might sound like a spot of fun for aspiring gardeners, but Farmbot is actually a serious feat of technology that could make managing crops in your greenhouse, raised bed, urban roof garden or even larger commercial farming land more cost-efficient and less laborious.
It’s powered by none other than the minuscule Raspberry Pi 3, along with a microcontroller and electronics board. Tools that come as standard with Farmbot include a vacuum-powered seed injector, soil moisture sensor, 3D printed watering nozzle and a weed suppression tool that destroys the roots of weeds before they cause total chaos.
Both fully fledged and budding backyard farmers can easily operate all of the tools in real-time using the manual controls in the app. There’s also a camera onboard for some remote weed-spying and meticulous plant growth monitoring.
What’s more, Farmbot has a massive array of universal mounts including 12 electrical connections, 3 liquid/gas lines and magnetic coupling for fitting it with all kinds of extra tools.
Farmbot’s makers have also published all of the CAD files used to make Farmbot so that the more handy folks among us can 3D-print, laser-cut and drill press their own Farmbot parts.
The only piece of bad news is that Farmbot is up for pre-order at a cool $2,900 (£2,236), which pretty much excludes from the game anyone even slightly less than utterly dedicated to their crops. Shipping anywhere outside the US slaps an extra $250 (£193) onto that price tag.