Automatic trough filler makes sure the animals have water

It has been a hot hot summer for many parts of the US. The heat has been dangerous at times and making sure the livestock has the water they need is incredibly important. [Maddox] recently upgraded the automation on their water troughs which will help with the process. Sure, they still have to check on the animals, but this will ensure there’s plenty to drink in between those visits, and that a malfunction doesn’t waste precious water.

There has always been some level of automation here, but it relied on float valves which were frequently malfunctioning. This project seeks to get rid of the float value and use solenoid valves like those used in irrigation. These solenoids can run from a 9V battery and offer quite a bit more reliability than the mechanical vales. There is still a float sensor which measures the water level, filling up the trough when needed.

An MSP430 Launchpad was used for the prototype, from which a PCB was designed. Since this needs to be weather-proof a water tight enclosure was sourced. The company that makes the enclosure also provides DXF templates which [Maddox] used to establish the size and outline of the PCB.

Comments

  1. More Please says:

    Could that work with beer?

    Jokes aside, this seem really well documented and I am enjoying reading the details.

  2. Steve says:

    Cool project… now clean your tank already. They’re not supposed to be green…

  3. Brently says:

    Or you can purchase some toilet plumbing, and do away with the electronics.

  4. ryan says:

    They are if they are reflecting the light from the leaves above…

    Anyway, you could do this with no moving parts with an ultrasonic sensor (expensive), or maybe use the CTMU on a pic micro to watch the capacitance change between two rods (cheap).

  5. Chris Muncy says:

    The only problem with some of your ideas is that horses are curious by nature. Stick something foreign in or around their tank and they will sniff it, might it, lick it, yank it. I have the same problem with my horses and this looks like a good solution. I’m tired of replacing the float valves that one of my *WIFE’S* horses is constantly ripping apart….

    • franklyn says:

      i wish i had problems like these.

      • Rob says:

        I used to say that sometimes, but then I got a closer look at some of them, and just between you me and the fence post, I’m glad I don’t. Problems rise on an exponential curve, and every “good” problem entails many other “not good” problems. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish most “I wish I had that problem” problems on my worst enemy. Happiness is far more often found in embracing the now than in desiring the then.

    • Ryan says:

      Well, one way to do this with nothing in or obvious around the tank (apart from the spicket with the solenoid) is to put a metal bar/rod/pad under the water container. The water container acts as a capacitor lag tied to ground, and the rod/bar/pad/ whatever, is tied to circuitry. You can measure the capacitance to tell how full/empty the container is and control the solenoid to keep the faucet filled.

    • Steve says:

      Agreed… the wife’s horses are definitely the worst offenders.

    • n0lkk says:

      You can build a box around the float so the critters can’t get to it, with out losing functionality. That or put the float in the middle of the tank out of reach, that requires a bit of forethought before purchasing, and setting the tank, but often done here to combat icing problem in Winter The last company I worked for had a lease in a pasture that contained high dollar horses. Once when I as doing my paper work at the end of the day one of them stuck it’s head in the window to make sure I was doing it right. I leaned over of of it’s reach and slapped it on the nose. The horse got even by by going to the hood,curling it’s upper lop back and preceded to use it’s teeth to strip paint off the hood.

  6. aleksclark says:

    it’s like a competition to find all the ways to typo ‘valve’…

  7. ds2ktj says:

    I just did this to my chickens water yesterday. I didn’t go so hightech and used a good float valve.

  8. macona says:

    A 9v battery with a solenoid is more reliable than a float valve??? You have got to be kidding, float valves have been used for probably a century. If they were that unreliable they wouldnt be made any more.

    If the valves are failing twice a year something is wrong. I have seen stables with waterers that are very old and still working.

    • Rob says:

      From the category of getting exactly what we pay for, many modern inexpensive float valves are of questionable quality. consider paying more $ for a good quality one (with a guarantee… heck, there’s not a lot there to go wrong, and the mfg shouldn’t be afraid to guarantee it), or fabbing one youself if you have the capability to do so.

  9. bill says:

    a float valve would work fine if the valve body is kept out of water. a long valve arm and large float. simple.

  10. Kurt says:

    I have had good luck with Hudson valves when using them with fresh, filtered water. They required frequent cleaning when used with reclaim water (in a car wash). They tend to fail in the open position, which would seem to be a good thing when dealing with animals. If the electronics fail, it would seem likely they would not open, leading to a potentially dangerous situation for the critters. Just a thought…

    • Maddox says:

      Hudson valves are what was replaced with this project. I didn’t have a filter on the supply and they fail open as you point out. I used this as the impetus to do an electronics project!

  11. noid says:

    my gandfather stumbled on to a simple solution for this, his horse learned to turn the tap on and off by itself.

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