Hacklet 50 – Hydroponic Projects

Growing plants without soil has been has been amazing people for centuries. First written about in the 1600’s, hydroponics has become an industry with numerous techniques for germinating and sustaining both plant and animal life. It comes as no surprise then that hackers, makers, engineers, and scientists have been working with and improving hydroponic systems for centuries. Hydroponic plant growth is a project you can really sink your teeth into, as there’s nothing sweeter than eating the fruits and vegetables of your labor. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best hydroponic projects on Hackaday.io!

hydropwnWe start with HydroPWNics, [Adam Vadala-Roth’s] entry in The 2015 Hackaday Prize. [Adam] is creating a universal system with will work with both hydroponic and soil based grow systems. The hydroponic setup will consist of plants in a PVC gutter system. Water will be pumped to the top gutter, and flow down via gravity through the plant roots and back to the reservoir. The system will be monitored and controlled by a DyIO controller. Props to [mad.hephaestus] for creating DyIO, a project seeing reuse in the Hackaday.io community!


hydro2Next up is [Justin] with AAGriculture, an Automated Aquaponic Garden. AAGriculture is aquaponic system, which means it uses a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish to make more food for humans to eat. The fish in this case are bluegill and bullhead. A Raspberry Pi controls the system, while A Teensy-LC is used to help out with some of the real-time duties, like monitoring a PH probe. [Justin] is even using CO2 tanks to keep dissolved gasses in check. He must be doing something right, as his tomatoes are now over 23″ tall!


homer[Em] brings us 5g Aquaponics. 5g aquaponics isn’t a next generation cellular system, nor a 5.8 GHz WiFi setup, it’s an aquaponic system in a 5 Gallon bucket. Anyone from the US  will recognize the orange “Homer Bucket” from Home Depot. 5g Aquaponics includes a window, allowing the underwater workings to be monitored. Speaking of monitoring, 5g aquaponics is a manual affair – [Em] hasn’t used any electronics here. The idea is to create a system that is easy to get up and running for those who are new to Hydro/Aquaponic setups. [Em] is using a dual zone root system. The plant grows in dirt within a burlap fabric. The fabric then sits in a water bath which also houses the fish. Air pumped through an airstone keeps everything circulating. [Em’s] initial version of the project worked a bit too well. The tomato plant grew so large that the roots strangled the fish! Hopefully both flora and fauna are happy with this new rev 2.0!


smartAquaFinally we have [Kijani grows] with Smart Aquaponics, which was [Kijani’s] entry in The 2014 Hackaday Prize. One wouldn’t expect fish, plants and Linux to mix, but that is exactly what is going on here. Linux runs on the popular Wr703n router, while a custom ATmega328 Arduino compatible board keeps track of the sensors.  The second version of the system will run on an ATmega2560 and an AR9331 module, all housed on one board. The system does work, and it’s been expanded from a single fish tank to a large flood/drain table complete with grow lights, all kept at [Kijani’s] office. The biggest problems [Kijani] has run into are little things like misplaced resistors masquerading as kernel bugs.

Still haven’t eaten your veggies? Want to see more hydroponic projects? Check out our new hydroponic projects list! That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

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:

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 its vertical orientation. The entire system is even made from easy to find parts from your local hardware store. The water usage is kept 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 its 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 independently 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]