Hackaday Prize Entry: Smart Composting System

Composting serves an important purpose in our society, reusing our food scraps and yard waste to fertilize gardens rather than fill up landfills. Knowing that most people don’t compost, [Darian Johnson] set out to create a Arduino-controlled composting system to make it as simple as possible. It monitors your bin’s moisture, temperature, and gas emissions to ensure it’s properly watered and aerated.

[Darian]’s project combines a MQ4 gas sensor that detects combustible gas, a soil moisture sensor, and a temperature and humidity probe. The nearby water reservoir is monitored by an ultrasonic sensor that keeps track of the water level; a pump triggered by a TIP120 turns on the water. Meanwhile, a servo-controlled vent keeps the air flowing just right.

The Smart Composting System sounds like it would be useful to home gardeners; it’s a Best Product finalist in the 2017 Hackaday Prize.

An Electric Fence for Snails and Slugs

Anyone with a garden knows about doing battle with pests. Weeds, bugs, rabbits, birds — all of them try to get a bite out of our flowers and vegetables. Some of the worst are mollusks. Snails and slugs are notorious plant attackers. Tomato plants don’t stand a chance when these beasts come to town. Some folks would reach for the pesticide or even the salt, but [wheldot] had a better idea. He built an electric fence to keep these pests at bay.

Much like the electric fences used for large mammals like horses or cows, this fence is designed to deter, but not kill slugs and snails. The design is incredibly simple – two bare wires are strung around the raised garden about one centimeter apart. The wires are connected to a nine-volt battery. No boost circuit, no transistors, just nine volts across two wires. That’s all it takes to turn a slug away.

[Wheldot] didn’t come up with this hack — it’s been around in various forms for years. The nine-volt battery provides just enough current to annoy the slug or snail. The best part is that when not actively shocking a slug, the only current passing through the circuit is the whatever is passed through the wood.

Reddit user [gnichol1986] measured that at around 180 kΩ through wet wood. That means a typical 400 mAh battery would last around 34 days of continuous rain. Even in the UK it doesn’t rain that much. With a little work insulating the wires from the wood, that could be extended to the full shelf life of the battery.

You know, slugs and critters get into electronics too, so don’t forget a waterproof case to make sure your project stays slug free!

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Robot Lives in Your Garden and Eats the Weeds

You can’t deny the appeal of gardening. Whether it’s a productive patch of vegetables or a flower bed to delight the senses, the effort put into gardening is amply rewarded. Nobody seems to like the weeding, though — well, almost nobody; I find it quite relaxing. But if you’re not willing to get down and dirty with the weeds, you might consider deploying a weed-eating garden robot to do the job for you.

Dubbed the Tertill, and still very much a prototype, the garden robot is the brainchild of some former iRobot employees. That’s a pretty solid pedigree, and you can see the Roomba-esque navigation scheme in action — when it bumps into something it turns away, eventually covering the whole garden. Weed discrimination is dead simple: short plants bad, tall plants good. Seedlings are protected by a collar until they’re big enough not to get zapped by the solar-powered robot’s line trimmer.

It’s a pretty good idea, but the devil will be in the details. Will it be able to tend the understory of gardens where weeds tend to gather as the plants get taller? Can it handle steep-sided raised beds or deeply mulched gardens? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this Australian weed-bot.

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3D Print Your Garden

How would you go about sculpting a garden in the 21st century? One answer, perhaps predictably, is with a 3D printer. Gone are the days of the Chia pet. Thanks to a team of students out of University of Maribor in Slovenia, today we can 3D print living sculptures of our own design.

PrintGREEN traces its roots to an art project undertaken by Maja Petek, Tina Zidanšek, Urška Skaza, Danica Rženičnik, and Simon Tržan — an engineering student who worked on the project’s 3D printer — all mentored by professor Dušan Zidar. It uses a modified CNC machine to print layers of clay soil, water, and grass seeds that germinate and sprout in short order.

The goal of the project was to meld art, technology, and nature. Hard to argue with the results. With the rising necessity of  environmentally-conscious technologies in all areas, even gardening it seems, is not lacking for innovation.

If you’re looking to implement some more tech into your gardening, check out this homemade watering controller, as well as some space-saving solutions for urban gardening.

 

Lettuce For Life!

If you take a head of romaine lettuce and eat all but the bottom 25mm/1inch, then place the cut-off stem in a bowl of water and leave it in the sun, something surprising happens. The lettuce slowly regrows. Give it a few nutrients and pay close attention to optimum growing conditions, and it regrows rather well.

lettuce-for-life-hydroponic-systemThis phenomenon caught the attention of [Evandromiami], who developed a home-made deep water culture hydroponic system to optimise his lettuce yield. The lettuce grows atop a plastic bucket of water under full spectrum grow lights, while an Intel Curie based Arduino 101 monitors and regulates light levels, humidity, temperature, water level, and pH. The system communicates with him via Bluetooth to allow him to tweak settings as well as to give him the data he needs should any intervention be required. All the electronics are neatly contained inside a mains power strip, and the entire hydroponic lettuce farm lives inside a closet.

He does admit that he’s still refining the system to the point at which it delivers significant yields of edible lettuce, but it shows promise and he’s also experimenting with tomatoes.

Our community have a continuing fascination with hydroponic culture judging by the number of projects we’ve seen over the years. This isn’t the first salad system, and we’ve followed urban farming before, but it’s winter strawberries that really catch the attention.

Hackaday Prize Entry: An Urban Kitchen Garden

[Eric] is used to growing his own food, and looked at the commercial options for growing veggies and herbs year round. It turns out the commercial options are terrible, with proprietary lighting, proprietary ‘seed pods,’ and no climate control.

Unsatisfied with the commercial options, [Eric] looked for a DIY solution. His entry for The Hackaday Prize is just that: an Urban Kitchen Garden.

The Urban Kitchen Garden was a peltier wide cooler in its former life, turned into a grow chamber with LED grow lights, an Arduino, a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor, a soil moisture sensor, and an old Nokia LCD to keep track of everything. He’s been growing basil in it over the winter, and it just won’t die.

[Eric] won’t be growing tomatoes or beans in his tiny, desktop-sized garden, but it’s not really designed for that. It’s meant for herbs and seedlings, mostly, with larger plants moved outside when [Eric]’s Canadian winters finally subside.

There’s a video of the build, you can check that out below.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Source Hydroponic Monitoring System

A few months ago, [Adam] was building a controller system for a small hydroponic system he had set up in his basement. Since then, the Hackaday Prize was announced, and given the theme – saving the world one plant at a time – he’s renvisioning his garden control and monitoring system as a Hackaday Prize entry.

While the mechanical and green part of the build is exactly what you would expect from something designed from hardware store parts, the electronics are rather interesting. All the plants in either a hydroponic or dirt-based setup will have their moisture level and PH monitored by a a set of electronics that push data up to the cloud.

The current hardware setup includes a DyIO, a very cool dev platform with 24 digital I/Os and 24 servo outputs, a Raspberry Pi, and a few module boards loaded up with ARM microcontrollers and an ESP8266. [Adam] is hitting all the hardware on this build.

So far, [Adam] has a few boards sent out to a board fab, including an analog sensor module, a digital sensor module. a WiFi module hub, and a few bits and bobs that make integration into an existing garden or hydroponic setup easier. It’s a great project for this year’s Hackaday Prize, and proof that you don’t need to come up with a new build to submit something.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: