If there’s one thing I learned about Detroit last weekend, it’s that it is freaking huge. It’s an unbelievably large city, and looking at the population numbers, you can really start to see the problem of providing city services to such a large area. With such a sparse population, it’s the ideal environment for experimentations in urban farming, after a few seasons of planting crops that will leech everything out of the soil of course.
If you have a farm, you’re going to need some means of irrigation, and you might as well throw a scarecrow in there as well, giving i3 Detroit the idea for RoboCrop, the perfect project for an urban farm or anyone who is putting on a production of The Wizard Of Oz but is a little shorthanded for a full cast.
RoboCrop is an all-in-one irrigation and bird and small mammal scaring device, controllable with webcam video streamed right to the remote. It’s a fun project, and fits right into the apparent unofficial “urban gardening” theme of this year’s Red Bull Creation.
i3 is also the largest and arguably the best equipped hackerspace in the Detroit region. They were kind enough to let us throw a little get together there last weekend where we gave away a 3D printer for The Hackaday Prize. Good times all around. We’ll have a video tour of i3 up a little bit later.
Cracked windshields ready for greenhouse
Windshields added to greenhouse.
Robocrop dressed with face and hands
Face worthy of Robocop; spits water while camera watches you
Pump, reservoir, and power source for Robocrop
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.
[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”
Amidst the noise of a bazillion robots and Tesla coils at the 2010 Bay Area Maker Faire, we located a bubble of usable WiFi, and got a nearby power charge to boot. If nothing else here, we want this:
The SolarPump Charging Station is a self-contained oasis of free power for laptops, cel phones and even electric bikes. This charging station is one of several designs created by Sol Design Labs of sunny Austin, Texas. No bigger than a bus stop (and way cooler looking), it’s like the ultimate case mod, repurposing a vintage Citgo gas pump and recycled metals for more modern needs. Three large Sanyo solar panels provide power for devices and shade for users, while topping off the internal 24V 100AH battery for nighttime use (with LED lighting) or cloudy days. The end result transcends “green” — the SolarPump is simply appealing at a visceral level, managing to be simultaneously fun, attractive and practical. Did we mention wanting one? We totally want one.