Robotic Farms Invade Urban Landscapes

Robotic Urban Farm System

Now there is no excuse to not have a garden, even if you are located in an urban area. The Robotic Urban Farm System (RUFS for short) solves the problems of growing many plants in a small area. The system’s high plant density is attributed to it’s vertical orientation. The entire system is even made from easy to find parts from your local hardware store. The water usage is keep to a minimum thanks to the closed loop watering system. Instead of flowing down into the ground, any excess water is collected and saved for use later.

Plants are placed in holes made in the side of a standard plastic downspout that hangs from a PVC frame, each hole several inches apart from it’s neighbor. A standard plastic plant pot is place inside each hole and is filled with hydroponic media. That’s right, there is no dirt in this system. Plants will grow happily in the hydroponic media providing they get all the nutrients and water they need.

Robotic Urban Farm SystemThe potential urban farmer may not be super excited about tending to his crops. This is where the robot portion of the RUFS system comes into play. There are two control systems that work independantly of each other. The first is for indoor applications and controls light cycles and circulation fans. The second is a little more complex and controls the watering portion of the system. Not only does it water the plants at pre-determined intervals but it also monitors the pH, nutrient and water levels inside the reservoir. Both these systems are Arduino-based. For extreme control freaks, there is one more add-on available. It’s Raspberry Pi based and has an accompanying mobile app. The Pi records and logs sensor data from the Arduinos and also allows remote updating of the watering and light schedules. The mobile app lets you not only look at current conditions of the system but also displays the historical data in a nice visual graph.

THP Semifinalist: Farmbot

Farmbot Progress

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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Aquaponic System Uses Arduino For Consistent Performance

Smart Aquaponics

Food is just one of those things that we need to survive. Plants can grow on their own without human intervention but the quantity and quality of the crop will vary from year to year. Even elaborate farms can have good and bad years due to variables such as weather, disease, bugs, pollution and soil condition.

There is a system called Aquaponics that attempts to control those variables. Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) with hydroponics (growing plants in water). The Aquaponic system tries to emulate what happens in nature without the variation; water-based animals eat plants and excrete waste and that waste is used as food for plants.

[Kijani Grows] has built an Aquaponic setup and added a smart controller that is made out a bunch of stuff you would not normally associate with a garden. Their are several sensors in the system that measure water flow, tank level, water quality and dissolved oxygen. An Arduino monitors these sensors and reports the information back to a $20 router running OpenWRT. All of the recorded data is also stored for review later. Software on the router determines what needs to be adjusted in the enclosed ecosystem. The router communicates this information back to the Arduino which in turn controls the water pumps, heaters, fish feeder and lighting. And as if that wasn’t enough, the control system can be set up to send out messages via email, SMS or social media.

Red Bull Creation: i3 Detroit

If there’s one thing I learned about Detroit last weekend, it’s that it is freaking huge. It’s an unbelievably large city, and looking at the population numbers, you can really start to see the problem of providing city services to such a large area. With such a sparse population, it’s the ideal environment for experimentations in urban farming, after a few seasons of planting crops that will leech everything out of the soil of course.

If you have a farm, you’re going to need some means of irrigation, and you might as well throw a scarecrow in there as well, giving i3 Detroit the idea for RoboCrop, the perfect project for an urban farm or anyone who is putting on a production of The Wizard Of Oz but is a little shorthanded for a full cast.

RoboCrop is an all-in-one irrigation and bird and small mammal scaring device, controllable with webcam video streamed right to the remote. It’s a fun project, and fits right into the apparent unofficial “urban gardening” theme of this year’s Red Bull Creation.

i3 is also the largest and arguably the best equipped hackerspace in the Detroit region. They were kind enough to let us throw a little get together there last weekend where we gave away a 3D printer for The Hackaday Prize. Good times all around. We’ll have a video tour of i3 up a little bit later.

No sleep till Brooklyn aquaponics installation is complete

brooklyn-aquaponics-build

This is some extreme gardening. [I Am Become Derpth] didn’t let lack of space or tillable soil stop him from growing a bountiful harvest. Instead of cutting though prairie sod to begin the farming he had to contend with the concrete expanses found in the NYC area. Here he’s nearing the end of an impressive aquaponics installation in Brooklyn, New York.

For a good overview of what aquaponics is all about we suggest you take a look at this Oakland, CA setup. The heart of the system is a closed loop that uses both plants and fish for balance. The byproduct is edible greens. The image above shows the growing beds through which water is circulated. They’re filled with clean gravel which keeps the roots happy. Once the water has made it through this system it is piped into the basement of the apartment where water tanks filled with fish reside. The system uses the fish waste (broken down by bacteria) to feed the plants.

It’s an efficient system but one thing’s for sure, you don’t just go out and buy a rig this complicated. We think you’ll really enjoy going through the build log linked at the top.

[via Reddit]

Urban farming uses aquaponics to make farmland where there is none

[Eric Maundu] is farming in Oakland. There are no open fields in this concrete jungle, and even if there were the soil in his part of town is contaminated and not a suitable place in which to grow food. But he’s not using farming methods of old. In fact farmers of a century ago wouldn’t recognize anything he’s doing. His technique uses fish, circulated water, and gravel to grow vegetables in whatever space he can find; a farming method called aquaponics.

The video after the break gives an excellent look at his farm. The two main parts of the system are a large water trough where fish live, and a raised bed of gravel where the fish waste in the water is filtered out and composted by bacteria to becomes food for the vegetables. More parts can be added into the mix. For instance, once the water has been filtered by the stone bed it can be gravity fed into another vessel which is being used to grow lettuce suspended by floating foam board. But the water always ends up back in the fish trough where it can be reused. This ends up saving anywhere from 90-98% of the water used in normal farming.

But [Eric] is also interested in adding some automation. About seven minutes into the video we get a look at the control systems he’s working on with the help of Arduino and other hardware.

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[George Foreman] seedling starter for kitchen herbs

Sometimes the best kitchen hacks aren’t about the best barbecue, the rarest steak, or the baconiest bacon. Sometimes you need a little color on your plate, son, so why not grow your own herbs in a [George Foreman] rotisserie greenhouse?

[Sam] first saw his barely used rotisserie as his friend was throwing it out. Like any good maker, he quickly snatched it up and began work on some modifications. After removing the fun bits like the motor, heating element, and timer, [Sam] installed two compact fluorescent light bulbs to start a few herbs off right.

Kitchen herb gardens are surprising common, so much so that entire forums are dedicated to the practice. [Sam] doesn’t have any soil in his seedling starter yet but when he does, we expect he’ll be harvesting a nice crop of basil, oregano or cilantro in the spring.

Of course, [Sam] could use his seed starter to grow more “unconventional” plants, but some of us have been kicked out of a dorm for growing a pomegranate seedling, so we’ll leave it at that.

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