THP Semifinalist: Farmbot

The FarmBot team has been pretty busy with their CNC Farming and Gathering machine. The idea is to automate the farming process with precise deployment of tools: plows, seed injection, watering, sensors, etc. An Arduino with an added RAMPS handles the movement, and a Raspi provides internet connectivity. Their prototype has already experienced four major iterations: the first revision addressed bigger issues such as frame/track stability and simplification of parts. Now they’re locking down the specifics on internet-of-things integration and coding for advanced movement functions.

The most recent upgrade provides a significant improvement by overhauling the implementation of the tools. Originally, the team envisioned a single, multi-function tool head design that carried everything around all the time. Problem is, the tool that’s in-use probably works best if it’s lower than the others, and piling them all onto one piece spells trouble. The solution? a universal tool mounting system, of course. You can see them testing their design in a video after the break.

If the FarmBot progress isn’t impressive enough—and admittedly we’d have called project lead [Rory Aronson] crazy for attempting to pull this off…but he did it—the FarmBot crew started and successfully funded an entire sub-project through Kickstarter. OpenFarm is an open-source database set to become the go-to wiki for all things farming and gardening. It’s the result of [Rory] encountering an overwhelming amount of generic, poorly written advice on plant growing, so he just crowdsourced a solution. You know, no sweat.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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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.

Hey There Little Plant. Let’s Be Friends!

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Perhaps, you’re circle of friends is getting too small. Or maybe, you just want to communicate with the leafy, green beings that have rooted themselves in the soil inside your house. If so, this environmental monitoring system will be perfect for you!

Created by [Dickson], this project monitors soil moisture, air temperature, and air humidity of your indoor plants and will alert you via email and SMS when your plants are thirsty. No longer will your sprouts shrivel up in the sun, but rather, they will be well-hydrated ready to produce their veggie goodness.

The system is battery operated, wireless, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based and comes with an Android app, which in turn allows you to view real-time and historical data, thus giving you the option to check in on your crew of Chlorophyll-embedded friends.

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Let’s look at the sensors which are at work on the project.

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Solar Powered DIY Plant Watering System

Solar Powered Watering System

It’s great having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from the kitchen, but it takes work to keep those plants healthy. [Pierre] found this out the hard way after returning from vacation to find his tomato plant withering away. He decided to put an end to this problem by building his own solar-powered plant watering system (page in French, Google translation).

An Arduino serves as the brain of the system. It’s programmed to check a photo resistor every ten minutes. At 8:30PM, the Arduino will decide how much to water the plants based on the amount of sunlight it detected throughout the day. This allows the system to water the plants just the right amount. The watering is performed by triggering a 5V relay, which switches on a swimming pool pump.

[Pierre] obviously wanted a “green” green house, so he is powering the system using sunlight. A 55 watt solar panel recharges a 12V lead acid battery. The power from the battery is stepped down to the appropriate 5V required for the Arduino. Now [Pierre] can power his watering system from the very same energy source that his plants use to grow.

Move Over Humans and Things, Flowers Now On The ‘Net

Tweeting Poppy Plants

The ‘Internet of Flowers’ is upon us thanks to an artist named [Adrian]. He has designed a project that not only monitors the growth of Poppy Flowers but also monitors the soil, air and surrounding activity.

The entire project is based on a Raspberry Pi mounted in a purpose-built enclosure made from laser cut birch plywood. The enclosure is mounted in a window of an adjacent building that has a view of the flower bed. An internally mounted camera was carefully aligned so its field of view was mostly of the plants and would limit taking photos of unknowing passersby. The camera takes a snap shot every 5 minutes, see the time lapse video below.

Tweeting Poppy PlantsA box containing sensors is installed in the flower bed. The intent of this project was not to have the Raspberry Pi spit out hard factual data regarding soil moistness, temperature and ambient noise, but to instead take that data from the sensors and send out a story-like narrative that makes the communication feel more personal. To receive these comments from the poppies, you can follow them on Twitter: @tweetingpoppy.

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Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos

Open Hardware Summit 2013

The 2013 Open Hardware Summit took place on September 6th at MIT. There was a wide array of demos and talks covering Open Hardware methodologies and projects. After the break I’ll be covering the demo area of the conference, and sharing some of my favorite demos.

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Fertilizing a planted aquarium using air freshener hardware

Keeping live plants in an aquarium happy can be quite a chore. One of the frequent rituals is adding fertilizer, which is called dosing. [Majstor76] came up with a creative way to automatically dose using an air freshener. He got rid of the canister that holds the scent and re-purposed a hand soap pump to move the nutrient-rich liquid. After the break you can see that there’s no shortage of power to actuate the pump and the powered air freshener base has a delay circuit, allowing for a few different time-release options. As long as the volumetric output is fairly consistent we figure you can dilute your fertilizer to fine-tune the dose.

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