Franklin Robotics Blog

The Roboticist and the Garden (Part 2)

Written by Joe Jones | Jul 5, 2017 3:29:32 PM

My first vegetable garden didn’t turn out so well.  I procrastinated weeding for the first few weeks, and then went on a short vacation to find my garden had almost completely disappeared under a jungle of weeds.


My second year of gardening turned out differently. But not much better. An organic grower I met enlightened me to the joys of the shuffle hoe.


Things started off well in the spring. Hoeing was easier and less daunting than bending and manually pulling weeds, so I took good care of my garden for the first few weeks. The ground was pristine, and plants reached hopefully skyward. Sunshine was abundant. Actually too abundant… we had a drought that summer.


I watered my plants (but not enough it turned out) and continued using the shuffle hoe when I had time. Maybe because of the lack of rain and my periodic hoeing, weeds never grew profusely like they had the summer before. However, most of my crops didn’t grow very well either. Some of the more resilient and drought-resistant vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and basil proved themselves to be team players, so the garden wasn’t a total loss.


Then I began to notice that something was eating the few crops that did survive. Such are the tribulations of gardening. An ultrasonic pest repeller monitored my garden both seasons but the bunnies and the chipmunks didn’t seem to mind. They’d sit and munch my tomatoes while pondering the meaning of the 20 kHz hum.

My troubles have taught me some of the things that make gardening a challenge (Despite the difficulties, however, I discovered that I do really like having a garden). Last year, I learned about the burden weeding can be last year, and then this year realized that weeding is only half the battle. This sent us back to our lab where we’ve been experimenting with incorporating pest-detecting and repellent functions to future models of Tertill. While Tertill scares pests away whenever it suddenly starts to move, future models will do even more. These models will be able to deliberately shoo away garden pests, analyze your soil, and even alert you if you need to take action.


It’s been said, “The footsteps of the farmer are the best fertilizer.” My experience suggest that’s true. Had I given my garden more time and attention I’m sure my veggies would have done better. These days, my footsteps are in short supply so I’m hoping to make the tracks of a robot serve as good fertilizer.


If all goes well this season the robot will begin to supply my garden with the daily diligence it needs—whacking weeds, disturbing pests, and monitoring conditions.