THP Semifinalist: Farmbot

The FarmBot team has been pretty busy with their CNC Farming and Gathering machine. The idea is to automate the farming process with precise deployment of tools: plows, seed injection, watering, sensors, etc. An Arduino with an added RAMPS handles the movement, and a Raspi provides internet connectivity. Their prototype has already experienced four major iterations: the first revision addressed bigger issues such as frame/track stability and simplification of parts. Now they’re locking down the specifics on internet-of-things integration and coding for advanced movement functions.

The most recent upgrade provides a significant improvement by overhauling the implementation of the tools. Originally, the team envisioned a single, multi-function tool head design that carried everything around all the time. Problem is, the tool that’s in-use probably works best if it’s lower than the others, and piling them all onto one piece spells trouble. The solution? a universal tool mounting system, of course. You can see them testing their design in a video after the break.

If the FarmBot progress isn’t impressive enough—and admittedly we’d have called project lead [Rory Aronson] crazy for attempting to pull this off…but he did it—the FarmBot crew started and successfully funded an entire sub-project through Kickstarter. OpenFarm is an open-source database set to become the go-to wiki for all things farming and gardening. It’s the result of [Rory] encountering an overwhelming amount of generic, poorly written advice on plant growing, so he just crowdsourced a solution. You know, no sweat.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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A solar powered cattle crossing gate

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Anyone who’s traveled the grounds of a cattle ranch will tell you there’s a lot of stopping to open and close gates. But this project is aimed at letting you operate the gate from the comfort of your vehicle. It uses a spool of wire as the gate, lowering it for vehicle access with the use of a remote control.

The base station uses a solar panel to keep the battery topped off. But if you’re not frequently using the system it shouldn’t take much electricity at all. An Arduino board listens for the signal from the remote control. It then unspools the wire until it lays flat across the ground and can be driven over. Once the car has passed another click of the remote raises the gate back into position. There’s even a version that uses two gates which make up a cattle corridor.

We were thinking that it would be easy enough for the cows to push right through this. But after seeing the clip after the break it’s obvious they like to follow the rules.

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Hydroponic strawberries sweeten up winter dolldrums

Add some fruit to your indoor bounty with this hydroponic strawberry farm. [Dino] whipped this up as his 45th hack a week episode (getting pretty close to his year-long goal). He used parts you probably already have sitting around the house somewhere. But even if you bought everything and used it once you still wouldn’t be out much.

A plastic storage container serves as the base. [Dino] also grabbed four identical plastic containers (large yogurt containers would work here) to host the plants. He cut off the bottom half and inserted some netting to keep the plant from falling through. After tracing the size of the container on the enclosure’s lid he cut out holes which will host each plant. This provides a way to dangle the roots into the nutrient solution which is kept oxygen rich with an aquarium pump and two air stones. It certainly deserves a place next to that salad farm you threw together. Don’t miss [Dino’s] build video after the break.

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Farmbot

Prospero is the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter, which is intended to be unleashed as a swarm. Using a Parallax propeller mounted on a Lynxmotion AH3-R hexapod body, though we have a ton of different ideas on hexapods if you find the price of the body to be out of budget.

Inputs to the machine are pretty standard robot fare like infrared, and ultrasound. Outputs on the other hand are more interesting, for example spray paint, retractable drill, seed dispenser, and of course a stack of servos.

Arming a robot with a drill and a can of spray paint sounds like a recipe for hours of fun, but it does have a job to do. Walking around, the bot stops and checks the ground below it, and if the ground is ok to seed, a small auger drill flips down from the robot’s belly. After drilling a hole, a seed is dropped, then covered over with a scoop on the back of the drill. Finally the seeded the spot is marked with white paint and the robot moves on.

Though its a prototype and not fully formed yet, its an interesting thing to see, so join us after the break for a video.

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Rendering and Blendering in a file cabinet

The Blender Foundation has just received a new render farm. It came in the form of a four-drawer file cabinet something akin to the popular Ikea clusters. Each draw holds four motherboards, power supplies, and hard drives and the whole cabinet will eventually add up to a 16-node cluster. Join in on the geeky excitement by watching the delivery and unpacking video after the break. We love it when organizations share the details on the hardware they use. Continue reading “Rendering and Blendering in a file cabinet”

Arduino now controlling – the crop harvest?

We’ve seen the Arduino board in charge of some pretty unique tasks in the past. Harvesting locally grown soybeans was not one of them.

[Lance] rigged this beast up in order to automate the monotonous task of driving up and down the vast soybean fields of Iowa. The 15 ton farm combine’s hydraulic steering pump is at the mercy of a team of gadgets, including a GPS, Windows 7 PC, and the omnipresent Duemilanove (which acts as the output card, connecting the PC to the pump). So far, it is reported to be doing a great job, straying only about an inch and a half from its desired, GPS-programmed, path. Even if the Arduino decides to go totally berserk and drive the combine off course, speeding around at 5mph makes it pretty avoidable. A supervisor is also in the cabin at all times, looking out for errors. [Lance] eventually hopes to offload all steering-related calculations to the ATmega328P onboard.

Commenters are welcome to share heavier-duty uses for the Arduino (if they exist).

Farm hacking: 7 amazing corn mazes

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If there’s one thing we’ve got a LOT of here in America, it’s corn. In the past few years Corn Mazes have become a wildly popular fall activity for all ages. We’ve enjoyed many ourselves and part of what we like about them is that they’re a hack. Whether made by the farmer down the road or a professional company most now use GPS to ensure a fun, challenging, and cool looking corn maze.

We spoke with [Scott Skelly] who owns Corn Mazes America, read the interview after the break. Continue reading “Farm hacking: 7 amazing corn mazes”