Rory Landon Aronson is a social entrepreneur and innovator helping solve big challenges


Grew up in Leucadia, CA riding bikes, surfing, building things, and tinkering with radio controlled cars, Legos, Rokenbok, and K’nex. Studied Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.


Working on the FarmBot and OpenFarm Projects as a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. On the Board of Directors at the SLO MakerSpace. Living in San Luis Obispo with 9 roommates, 2 dogs, and 6 chickens.


Educated as an engineer. Entrepreneur at heart. Community loving internet super-nerd and bicycle enthusiast.



FarmBot is humanity’s open-source precision farming machine and software suite designed for small scale automated food production. The vision is to create an open and accessible technology aiding everyone to grow food and to grow food for everyone. The mission is to grow a community that produces free and open-source hardware plans, software, data, and documentation enabling everyone to build and operate a farming machine.

Rory published the FarmBot Whitepaper on September 19th, 2013 capturing the attention of software developers, open-source enthusiasts, ag specialists, mechanical engineers, and more with the FarmBot technology and vision as well as details of FarmBot Genesis, the first FarmBot currently in development and slated for a crowdfunded launch in 2015.

From small raised beds, to retrofitted greenhouses, to urban rooftops, FarmBot is scalable and modular to work in any situation. Using an Arduino and Raspberry Pi, the Universal Tool Mount can be precisely positioned for a variety of operations including seeding, watering, fertilizing, weed control, and data acquisition. Plant layouts are designed with a drag and drop web-based interfaceallowing complete customization from any device. Operations are auto-scheduled ensuring your plants never miss a day of watering. The decision support system adjusts water, fertilizer, and pesticide regimens; seed spacing, timing, and more based on soil and weather conditions; sensor data, location, and time of year.

FarmBot has been featured in WIRED3D Printing, and Inhabitat.

SLO MakerSpace

SLO MakerSpace is a community resource dedicated to education and creativity. It is an open, collaborative machine/wood/electronics shop and craft center where one can build projects; teach and take classes; and build networks connecting with local people and resources.

Rory became involved at the ideation stage and helped to define the vision of the MakerSpace. He was then hired on as the first Shop Manager and tasked with building the shop infrastructure, creating the internal business processes, training a 10 person team of volunteer staff members, and running the day to day operations of the MakerSpace. Shortly after opening the shop, Rory trained and hired a replacement Manager to pursue working on the FarmBot Project full time. Today Rory serves on the Board of Directors and continues to innovate and steer the MakerSpace towards sustainability.

Recumbent Cargo Bicycle

For the Single Track Vehicle (Bicycle) Design course at Cal Poly, I designed and fabricated a recumbent cargo bicycle. The design process after the concept stage started with a stability analysis using custom MATLAB code written for the Patterson Control Model. From there, an FEA was completed to spec the tube sizes required and a SolidWorks model was created to ensure proper ergonomics for the rider. The bike was fabricated completely in my driveway with my own tools and using a gasless MIG welder. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the bicycle to school for grading as it handles very well. You can see the full report here.

Bike Med Kit

Bike Med Kits are affordable and simple to use public bicycle repair stations. They provide a set of tools and a pump for cyclists to perform basic maintenance and repair. Each station links to a localized Bike Med Kit website where users can find repair guides, maps of local Bike Med Kits and bike shops, and links to local bike resources.


Propelem is a platform that allows people to be rewarded for completing specific actions. Current rewards systems are inconvenient, decentralized, and limited. Propelem consists of a website and mobile application. Our website allows one to purchase products to be given as rewards to others for completing specific actions. The mobile application validates actions and automatically provides users with a digital voucher that can be used to redeem the reward in-store. Our business model provides a new way to make sales for product providers and a simple and convenient way to reward individuals, with our revenue coming from each sale that moves through our platform. Rory focuses on business development and sales marketing but has helped in areas of UX and UI design as well as beta app development and testing.


OpenFarm is a free and open database for farming and gardening knowledge. Similar to Wikipedia, the data is free for everyone to access and anyone can contribute content. OpenFarm Growing Guides are structured stories for growing a specific plant with particular practices and environmental conditions. Because people grow plants differently, OpenFarm provides a framework for everyone to share their story, and for learners to find the best, most relevant content.

Rory ran a successful Kickstarter Campaign for OpenFarm during August and September of 2013, garnering support from 1,605 people and raising $24,293 in just 30 days.

OpenFarm came out of the need for FarmBot to access structured, detailed data for how to grow a plant in a specific environment with specific growing practices, though it has since grown into a project of its own. OpenFarm will support FarmBot and other applications and devices via its open API.

OpenFarm has been featured in the Kickstarter Email Newsletter – Projects We Love: Growing ThingsInhabitat, and

Beach Wheelchair

Designed, built, tested, and reported a beach wheelchair with an interdisciplinary and international design team. The team successfully collaborated through weekly video conferencing and split up the design and fabrication work. The design allows users to independently move across the beach, gain access to the sand, and float in the water under their own power. Convenient and tool-less assembly and dis-assembly allows the chair to fit into a compact sedan.

Stove Powered Water Heater

This technology was co-developed by Guatemalan and Cal Poly students to provide cheap and reliable hot water. The team designed, built, tested and reported a water heater utilizing waste heat from a wood burning stove as the heat source. The technology functioned by placing a home built heat exchanger inside the chimney of the stove. This was connected with radiator tubing to a trash can fashioned into a water tank. The water continuously circulated without a pump by the thermosiphon effect whenever the stove was burning. The technology successfully heated enough water for 1 shower every 2 hours.


I think that engineering is as much an art form as it is a science. This philosophy has piqued my interest in industrial and product design as career paths and is what led me to design furniture in my free time. My designs incorporate simple but eye catching elements, use reclaimed materials and place functionality at the forefront. I have had 1 sale that originated from my online portfolio.


BS in Mechanical Engineering

California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA


  • Development of Appropriate Technologies
  • Single Track Vehicle (Bicycle) Design
  • Organic Agriculture
  • Music Appreciation
  • Piano


  • Design Series
  • Vibrations
  • Control Systems
  • Statics
  • Dynamics
  • Fluid Dynamics
  • Thermal System Design
  • Thermodynamics
  • Mechatronics


  • Welding
  • Machining
  • Casting


  • Cal Poly Zero Waste President
  • Empower Poly Coalition
  • Cal Poly Entrepreneurs
  • Guateca


  • Dean’s list 3 quarters
  • GPA of 3.18


School of Appropriate Technology San Pablo, Guatemala


Cal Poly and Guatemalan students formed a collaborative appropriate technologies school in Guatemala led by Dr. Peter Schwartz.


Worked on a team with 1 Cal Poly and 3 Guatemalan students that designed, built, tested and reported a water heater utilizing waste heat from a wood burning stove as the heat source. See Stove Powered Water Heater on the projects page for details.


  • Hands-on Design of Appropriate Technologies
  • Energy, Society, and the Environment
  • Spanish

San Dieguito Academy High School

Encinitas, CA


  • Ocean Surf Lifesaving
  • Yearbook
  • Spanish
  • Welding
  • Pottery
  • Photography
  • Woodshop


  • Score of 5 on Calculus I, II, and Physics AP tests
  • Honorable mention for student life photography at the national 2006 JEA convention
  • GPA of 3.64


“The truth about Rory is that such an ability to not only imagine, but to create, is what defines him. I believe supporting Rory is one of the smartest investments that an organization such as the Shuttleworth Foundation can make. Not solely because his project is inspiring, or that he himself is an ambitious individual – but because Rory is quite honestly, a unique, gem of a human who dares to defy the boundaries that we have created for ourselves.”

Aaron Rowley


“He’s an innovator in the making. He hasn’t followed the usual track of finishing college and getting a job, and then later in life realizing that things need to change. Rory is seeing opportunities now, he is focused, and with [FarmBot], he is not too concerned about where it is going to go, he just wants to solve the problem for himself.”

Jason Hudson

Shuttleworth Foundation

“I have worked with Rory for the last two years and experienced first hand his motivation to continue learning and pushing his boundaries to achieve. I see Rory as a passionate entrepreneur who is on the path to make big things happen. One couldn’t choose a better person to execute FarmBot the way Rory has, and I would like to see him become a Shuttleworth Fellow to continue following his dream.”

Jon York

Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

“Rory is a good example of the spirit that we’re looking for in a fellow. He’s enthusiastic and committed to making this change and he’s doing it anyway on his own time with his own investment.”

Karien Bezuidenhout

Shuttleworth Foundation

“Rory’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met — on every level: technologically, socially, what he’s doing with his house, with his friends.”

Pete Schwartz

Cal Poly, SLO MakerSpace

“Rory’s openness to new ideas proposed by the community, his flexibility in accommodating several different viewpoints, and willingness to listen to anyone sharing their opinion have been crucial in bringing OpenFarm to where it is now. His ability to track immediate goals, ensure the project stays on schedule, and guarantee that we follow a clear roadmap will create the strong project and community OpenFarm is intended to be.”

Simon Vansintjan


“It’s a warm spring night in the heart of San Luis Obispo, and cyclists have gathered in ranks to swarm the downtown scene with a carnivalesque circuit of Marsh and Higuera streets. Rory Aronson joins the herd to cheers of his name: “Rory’s here!” As the mob rolls on, flagrantly dressed riders maneuver in to briefly clutch him — as if to ensure the man, clad in a tight-fitting, pink flamingo costume, is no mirage.”

David Liebig

Mustang News

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