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.
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.
Cracked windshields ready for greenhouse
Windshields added to greenhouse.
Robocrop dressed with face and hands
Face worthy of Robocop; spits water while camera watches you
Pump, reservoir, and power source for Robocrop
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.
[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.
Continue reading “Urban farming uses aquaponics to make farmland where there is none”
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.
You know we’re all going to starve, right? If the world’s population keeps growing exponentially and food production grows linearly, we’re eventually going to find out what Soylent Green is made of. This is where [David Dorhout]’s Prospero robot farmer comes in. [David] has come up with the idea of using small autonomous robots to plant, tend and harvest fields. Right now, he’s working on stage 1: planting seeds.
A swarm of six-legged Prospero robots are dispatched to a field. There, each member of the swarm plants seeds one at a time. The robots keep in contact with each other over a wireless connection to ensure the optimal planting pattern for an entire field.
The Prospero prototype is based on the Parallax Propeller with a Ping ultrasonic sensor used to avoid obstacles. Each hexapod is equipped with a bunch of seeds, a small auger, and a supply of fertilizer for the future corn plant. The next step in the plan is to build a ‘tending’ robot that will monitor and apply nutrients if needed. Check out the Prospero video after the break.
Continue reading “Robotic farming means more corn for everyone”
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.
Continue reading “Farmbot”