Robotic Farms Invade Urban Landscapes

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.

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.

DIY Hydroponic System Grows Herbs on the Wall

Wall-Mounted Hydroponic Garden

Everyone knows that you should eat healthy, but it’s not always easy. Fresh and healthy foods are often more expensive than processed foods. When money is tight, sometimes it’s best to just grow your own produce. What if you don’t have room for a garden, though?

When [Matthew] returned home from the 2014 San Mateo Maker Faire, he found himself in a similar situation to many other faire attendees. He saw something awesome and was inspired to build it himself. In this case, it was a wall-mounted hydroponic garden. [Matthew] started out with some basic requirements for his project. He knew which wall he wanted to cover with plants, so that gave him the maximum possible dimensions. He also knew that they may have to remove the garden temporarily to perform maintenance on the wall in the future. And as for what to grow, [Matthew] loves lots of flavor in his foods. He chose to grow herbs and spices.

[Matthew] purchased most of the main components from Amazon and had them shipped to his doorstep. Everything else was found at the local hardware store. The base of the build is an off-the-shelf planter box. The drainage hole in the bottom was plugged up to prevent water from leaking out. A different hole was drilled in the side of the box to allow a garden hose to be mounted to the box. The hose is connected through a float valve, keeping the water level inside the box just right.

[Matthew] then built a frame out of dimensional lumber. The frame ended up being about 4.33 feet wide by 8 feet tall. The boards were fastened together with metal braces and mounting plates. A full sheet of plywood was then nailed to the front of the frame. Thick plastic sheet was then wrapped around the frame and stapled in place.

[Matthew] purchased giant planter pockets to actually hold the plants. He tried stapling them to the front of the frame, but discovered that staples were not strong enough to hold the weight of the plants, soil, and water. He instead used screws and washers.

Next, a submersible pump was mounted inside the bottom planter box. This pump is used to circulate the water and nutrients up to the plants above. Two hoses were connected to the pump and run up the sides of the upper frame. These hoses evenly distribute the water to the plants.

The final step was to mount the unit in place against the wall. [Matthew] didn’t want to screw into the wall and cause any damage. Instead, he placed a couple of bricks inside of the planter box and rested the bottom of the frame on top of those. The top of the frame is essentially hung from a railing up above with some thin steel wire.

The whole unit looks very slick and takes up little space. With some more ingenuity, one could likely build something similar with even more DIY components to save some more money.

Automated pH Control

pH Controller

Controlling the pH level of a solution is usually a tedious task. Adding an acid or base to the solution will change the pH, but manually monitoring the levels and adding the correct amount isn’t fun. [Reza] rigged up an automated pH controller to keep a solution’s pH steady.

The build uses an Arduino with a LCD shield, screw terminal shields, and [Reza]’s own pH shield attached. A peristaltic pump is used to pump the pH down acid into the solution. This type of pump isolates the fluid from the pump parts, preventing contamination of the solution. The pump is controlled using a PowerSwitch Tail, allowing the Arduino to control the flow of fluid.

An Omega pH probe is used to read the pH level. [Reza]’s open source firmware has support for calibrating the probe to ensure accurate readings. Once it’s set up, the screen displays the pH level and the current state of the system. The pump is enabled when the pH rises out of the desired range.

After the break, check out a video walk through of the device.

Continue reading “Automated pH Control”

No sleep till Brooklyn aquaponics installation is complete


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.

Continue reading “Urban farming uses aquaponics to make farmland where there is none”

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.

Continue reading “Hydroponic strawberries sweeten up winter dolldrums”