Arduino Astronomic Clock Automates Lights

ardAst

[Paulo's] garden lights are probably a bit more accurately automated than anyone else’s on the block, because they use latitude and longitude clock to decide when to flip the switch. Most commercial options (and hobbiest creations) rely on mechanical on/off timers that click on an off every day at the same time, or they use a photosensitive element to decide it’s dark enough. Neither is very accurate. One misplaced leaf obscuring your light-dependent resistor can turn things on unnecessarily, and considering the actual time of sunset fluctuates over the year, mechanical switches require constant adjustment.

[Paulo's] solution addresses all of these problems by instead relying on an algorithm to calculate both sunrise and sunset times, explained here, combined with swiftek’s Timelord library for the Arduino. The build features 4 7-segment displays that cycle through indicating the current time, time of sunset and of sunrise. Inside is a RTC (real time clock) with battery backup for timekeeping along with an Omron 5V relay to drive the garden lamps themselves. This particular relay comes with a switch that can force the lights on, just in case.

Check out [Paulo's] project blog for the full write-up, links to code and more details, then take a look at some other home automation projects, like the SMS-based heater controller or occupancy-controlled room lighting.

Fully automated watering robot takes a big leap forward toward greenhouse automation

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Greenhouse owners might find [David Dorhout]’s latest invention a groundbreaking green revolution! [David]’s Aquarius robot automates the laborious process of precision watering 90,000 square feet of potted plants. Imagine a recliner sized Roomba with a 30 gallon water tank autonomously roaming around your greenhouse performing 24×7 watering chores with absolute perfection. The Aquarius robot can do it all with three easy setups; add lines up and down the aisles on the floor for the robot to follow, set its dial to the size of your pots and maybe add a few soil moisture sensors if you want the perfect amount of water dispensed in each pot. The options include adding soil moisture sensors only between different sized plants letting Aquarius repeat the dispensing level required by the first plant’s moisture sensor for a given series.

After also digging through a pair of forum posts we learned that the bot is controlled by two Parallax propeller chips and has enough autonomous coding to open and close doors, find charging stations, fill its 30 gal water tank when low, and remember exactly where it left off between pit stops. We think dialing in the pot size could easily be eliminated using RFID pot identification tags similar in fashion to the Science Fair Sorting Project. Adjusting for plant and pot size as well as location might easily be automated using a vision system such as the featured Pixy a few weeks back. Finally, here are some featured hardware hacks for soil moisture sensing that could be incorporated into Aquarius to help remotely monitor and attend to just the plants that need attention: [Andy's] Garden sensors, [Clover's] Moisture control for a DIY greenhouse, [Ken_S's] GardenMon(itoring project)

[David Dorhout] has 14 years experience in the agriculture and biotech industry. He has a unique talent applying his mad scientist technology to save the future of mankind as seen with his earlier Prospero robot farmer. You can learn more about Aquarius’s features on Dorhout R&D website or watch the video embedded below.

[Read more...]

Update: Grow controller rebuilt to last

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[The Cheap Vegetable Gardener] assembled his first grow controller about three and a half years ago. He’s been very happy with it and knows that he’ll be using it for years, maybe even decades to come. He just finished overhauling the grow controller design to help make sure he doesn’t burn down his garage one day. You have to admit, without knowing anything about the project this rendition does look safer than his original offering.

Pictured above is the weather-proof enclosure he used to house four mains-rated solid state relays. This box is isolated from the control hardware, providing heavy-duty utility plugs to interface with the heater, lights, fan, and water pump.  He mounted the Arduino board which controls the relays to the outside of the box, using the Ethernet wire to switch the SSRs. It uses a manufactured shield he designed which will help ease the pain of fixing the system if parts ever go bad.

Later on in the build he shows the grow light and heaters used in his operation. The heaters simply screw into light sockets; something we’ve never come across before.

Warming seeds in an outdoor garden

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Spring is almost here and with that the green thumbs out there are preparing for their summer gardens. It’s usually a good idea to get a jump on all your gardening activities by starting seeds indoors, but with this comes the problem of making sure juvenile plants get enough sunlight. Putting a few seeds on a window sill will keep seeds warm enough to start germinating, but that will drastically reduce the amount of sunlight available for any given day. The best solution is to make sure the seeds are kept warm outside, but for wont of a properly placed clothes dryer vent [Tim] decided to make a solar soil heater using junk he had lying around.

[Tim] constructed a simple heater cartridge using a few 5 and 10 Ω resistors. These were sealed inside a piece of copper pipe with heat shrink tubing and silicone. The solution to powering this heater cartridge, though, is an impressive display of thinking outside the box.

The cartridge is powered by a solar lantern – the same kind you’d find illuminating a garden path at night and recharging during the day. After inserting the cartridge in a hill of seeds, the heater provides a little bit of warmth to get the seeds through the night. During the day, the battery in the solar lantern recharges, providing just enough power to cycle through another night.

It works for [Tim] in his native New England, so we’re betting it’s good enough for just about any growing region.

Watering system for your vegetable garden

The vegetables will be alive when [Dillon Nichols] returns from vacation thanks to this automatic watering controller that he built. This is the second iteration of the project, and deals mainly with replacing the electronics and UI of the controller itself. He detailed the hardware used for watering in a previous post. He plumbed in a solenoid valve with a hose threading on the output end for the soaker hoses snaking through the garden beds. This is a normally open valve but we’d suggest using a normally closed valve as a power outage will let the hose run continuously.

[Dillon] prototyped the design on an Arduino board, then moved to a standalone ATmega328 chip on some protoboard for the final design. He used a 3D printer to make the custom face plate which allows access to the three control buttons and provides a place for the character LCD to be mounted. In addition to the timer settings there is a manual watering switch as well. He used a typical mains light switch, wiring it with a pull-down resistor to make it work well with the Arduino. His explanation of the timer system can be seen after the break.

[Read more...]

Large-scale Arduino controlled greenhouse does some serious farming

[Instrument Tek] isn’t messing around with a hobby-sized greenhouse. In fact if it were any bigger we’d call it a commercial operation. But what interests us is the professional-quality greenhouse automation he built around and Arduino board.

The greenhouse is about what you’d expect to see at a nursery, except the footprint is somewhere around 10′x10′. It’s a stick-built frame with walls made of poly. Professional greenhouses monitor and regulate temperature and humidity and this one does just that. The video after the break starts off by showing the controller box. It has temperature, humidity, and light sensors that allow the Arduino to judge growing conditions. If it gets too hot, some slats are opened and a fan exhausts air from the structure. If it gets to cold, a series of light fixtures are energized. They contain heat lamps, as this setup is in northern Alberta, Canada and it can get quite cold some nights. The drip system is also automated, with a solenoid to turn water on and off.

In addition to that 3:26 show-and-tell, we’ve embedded a 27-minute video that shows how to build the controller box. So you can start you plants indoors on the rack, then populate the greenhouse when they get large enough.

[Read more...]

Scratch-build garden nursery uses Arduino monitoring

Starting your garden indoors helps to ensure large yields. This is because the plants get a head start before it’s warm enough for them to be put in the ground. But the process involves a fair amount of labor, ensuring that the lights are turned on and off at the right times each day, and that the temperature for germination and growth, as well as humidity, hit a certain target. It’s obvious that a bit of automation would be nice, and this Arduino-based garden nursery does just that. One of the things that sets this project apart is that it shows you how to go from an empty room to the bounty of plant starters seen here.

For the most part the equipment is what you’d expect, seed trays and covers, tray warming mats, and fluorescent light fixtures. the whole thing is given a small footprint thanks to an adjustable shelving unit. The Arduino is used in conjunction with a Sprout Board to add connectivity for switching the lights and warming mats. This is just a matter of driving a relay to switch mains voltage and can take any number of forms, including this home automation project we saw the other day.

[Thanks Tom]