GrowBot Garden

School: Digital Media Program, Georgia Tech
Lab: Public Design Workshop
Roles: researcher, workshop design and production, material sourcing, documentation, video editing, graphic design & book design

For much of modern history, agricultural robotics has tended toward the large scale and industrial – machines meant to fertilize, water, and harvest acres upon acres of land. At the same time, we’re learning that eating locally produced foods – often from smaller farms – is a better choice for health, environmental, and economic reasons. What can robotics do to help these kinds of small scale farmers, who often operate on a skeleton staff or a staff of one?

The GrowBot Garden set out to answer this question through a participatory design exploration. It included ethnographic research with local farmers, events engaging the public about robotics, and day-long design workshop with local farmers. In the workshop, farmers talked about their challenges, learned some basic principles of robotics through interactive learning stations, and then used parts from old toys to prototype robots that could help them out. The prototype pictured here is a machine-vision pest control ATV designed to eliminate pesticides and keeping biodiversity by only eliminating the harmful insects.

The project also took us to the 2010 Zero1 Biennial, where we ran workshops that expanded on ideas from the initial engagement.

In addition to designing the workshop and dismantling toys, I also created materials like videos, posters, and booklets, some of which are shown here.