The 2015 Hackaday Prize included something new: a prize for the Best Product. The winner took home $100k in funding, a six-month residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, and help turning a budding product into a full-grown success. And the winner is…
Water is a crucial element for farming: the plants need enough, but not too much. Water is also an increasingly precious resource all over the world. In California, five times as much water is used in agriculture as is used by residential consumers. A 25% reduction in agricultural use, for instance, would entirely offset all urban water use. With this in mind, a number of California farmers are trying to voluntarily reduce their water consumption. But how?
One important development is targeted irrigation. Getting precisely the right amount of water to each plant can reduce the fraction lost to evaporation or runoff. It’s a small thing, but it’s a very big deal.
Cue Vinduino, a long-running project of “gentleman farmer” and hacker [Reinier van der Lee]. As a system, Vinduino aims to make it easy and relatively inexpensive to measure the amount of water in the soil at different depths, to log this information, and to eventually tailor the farm’s water usage to the plants and their environment. We were able to catch up with [Reinier] at the Hackaday SuperConference the day after results were announced. He shared his story of developing Vinduino and recounts how he felt when it was named Best Product:
The product that won Best Product is simple, but very well executed. It’s a hand-held soil moisture sensor reader that couples with a DIY soil probe design to create a versatile and inexpensive system. All of the 2015 Best Product Finalists were exceptional. Vinduino’s attention to detail, room for expansion, and the potential to help the world pushed this project over the top.
Continue reading “Water-Saving Agricultural System Wins Best Product”
There are many different ways to keep your plants watered on a schedule. [Luca Dentella] just created a new one by building the irrighino watering system. He used standard off the shelf, hardware to keep it simple. Irrighino is a complete watering system based on the Arduino Yun, featuring a user friendly AJAX interface. This allows scheduling in a manner similar to creating appointments in Outlook. It’s also possible to manually control the various water solenoids. The code is fully customizable and open source, with code available from [Luca’s] github repository. The web interface is divided in to three tabs – “runtime” for manual control, “setup” to configure the scheduling, and “events” to view system logs.
The Arduino Yun activates solenoid valves via a relay shield. A switch panel has indicator Status LED’s and three position switches. These allow the outputs to be switched off or on manually, or controlled via the Yun when in auto mode. [Luca] describes how to read three states of the switch (On-Off-On) when connected to a single analog input of the Arduino. He’s also got another tutorial describing how to connect a USB WiFi adapter to the Yun. This is handy since the Yun is mounted inside an enclosure where the signal strength is very weak. While the Yun has on-board WiFi, there is no possibility to attach an external antenna directly to the test SMA socket.
One interesting part is the commercial rain sensor. It’s a switch surrounded by a spongy material. When this material absorbs rain water, it begins to expand and triggers the switch. The Arduino sees the sensor as a simple digital input.
Check a short demo of his system in the video after the break.
Continue reading “Irrighino, an Arduino Yun Based Watering System”
The theme of this year’s Hackaday Prize is ‘build something that matters.’ Acrobotic Industries is in beautiful Southern California, where it won’t rain an appreciable amount until the mudslides come. For a little bit of help during this unprecedented drought, they’ve created Clouden, a system of irrigation that only waters yards and parks when the plants need it. This is apparently a novel concept for Southern California, and is most certainly something that matters.
The Clouden system has two parts. The first is a node with an array of soil water sensors and a Particle WiFi module. This node connects to the controller which alters watering schedules in response to actual conditions and predicted rainfall from the WeatherUnderground API.
There’s more to just listening to sensors – the Clouden controller also has the hardware to control 24VAC water valves and a web interface for scheduling irrigation times. With this many sensors – and the ability to not water when there’s a ban in place – it’s a great watering system, and something Southern California desperately needs.
[Dave] used to grow chili peppers, but after moving to Texas he noticed his plants were drying up and dying off. This is understandable; Texas is freaking hot compared to his old home in the UK. These chilis needed a watering system, and with a pump, relay module, and an MSP430 launchpad, it was pretty easy to put together.
The core of the build is an MSP430 launchpad, a Sharp Memory LCD BoosterPack for the user interface, and a few bits and bobs for pumping water from a large soda bottle to the plant.
Before beginning his build, [Dave] took a look at commercial watering systems, but could only find huge irrigation systems for greenhouses or gardens. This was obviously overkill, but with a few parts – a six volt pump and a relay control board – [Dave] was able to make a simple system that keeps chilis watered for seven days between refilling the reservoir.
[Kyle Gabriel] moved into a house with a nice tract of land behind it, but due to his busy schedule he had yet to plant the garden he so desperately wanted. He worried that his hectic life and busy hours would lead to accidentally neglecting his garden, so he built a water collection and automated irrigation system to ensure that his plants never went without fresh water.
The system is fed by two large 55 gallon barrels that collect rain from his gutters. A 1/2 HP well pump is used to pressurize the collected water, which is then dispensed throughout his garden by a sprinkler. [Kyle’s] system is run from a small control box where an Arduino is used to control the pump’s schedule. At a predefined time, the Arduino turns the pump on, while monitoring the system for potential problems.
If the system starts running low on water, the Arduino triggers the valve on his spigot to open, keeping the water level above the pump inlet pipe. He also keeps an eye on pump’s outlet pressure, indefinitely disabling it before a blockage causes the pump to cycle repeatedly.
He says that the sprinkler system works quite well, and with his modular design, he can add all sorts of additional functionality in the future.
[Joe Fernandez] is fairly new to the hardware side of the hobby, but he seems to have easily found his way on this project. He wanted to build his own web-bridge for his Toro lawn sprinkler system. He pulled it off with style and shows off the spoils of his work in the clip after the break.
He started with an Android ADK, crafting some web magic to use a REST interface and JSON packets as a communications scheme. This makes it possible to control the system from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. The rest of the hardware evolved as his needs became clear. The first hunk was to add an Ethernet shield so that he didn’t need to have his Android phone connected to the system for it to work. From there he needed to control the solenoid valves on the system and grabbed three relay shields from Seeed Studios for this purpose.
As you can see, all of that hardware has a home on a polyethylene cutting board. The terminal blocks at the bottom keep the connections nice and neat as they interface with the sprinkler system. We were happy to hear that the stock controller still works, this add-on doesn’t permanently alter it in any way. That’s going to be important if he ever wants to sell the home.
Still using a traditional sprinkler instead of an in-ground system? Perhaps this variable range hack is for you.