Fully automated watering robot takes a big leap forward toward greenhouse automation

aquarius_robot

Greenhouse owners might find [David Dorhout]’s latest invention a groundbreaking green revolution! [David]’s Aquarius robot automates the laborious process of precision watering 90,000 square feet of potted plants. Imagine a recliner sized Roomba with a 30 gallon water tank autonomously roaming around your greenhouse performing 24×7 watering chores with absolute perfection. The Aquarius robot can do it all with three easy setups; add lines up and down the aisles on the floor for the robot to follow, set its dial to the size of your pots and maybe add a few soil moisture sensors if you want the perfect amount of water dispensed in each pot. The options include adding soil moisture sensors only between different sized plants letting Aquarius repeat the dispensing level required by the first plant’s moisture sensor for a given series.

After also digging through a pair of forum posts we learned that the bot is controlled by two Parallax propeller chips and has enough autonomous coding to open and close doors, find charging stations, fill its 30 gal water tank when low, and remember exactly where it left off between pit stops. We think dialing in the pot size could easily be eliminated using RFID pot identification tags similar in fashion to the Science Fair Sorting Project. Adjusting for plant and pot size as well as location might easily be automated using a vision system such as the featured Pixy a few weeks back. Finally, here are some featured hardware hacks for soil moisture sensing that could be incorporated into Aquarius to help remotely monitor and attend to just the plants that need attention: [Andy's] Garden sensors, [Clover's] Moisture control for a DIY greenhouse, [Ken_S's] GardenMon(itoring project)

[David Dorhout] has 14 years experience in the agriculture and biotech industry. He has a unique talent applying his mad scientist technology to save the future of mankind as seen with his earlier Prospero robot farmer. You can learn more about Aquarius’s features on Dorhout R&D website or watch the video embedded below.

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Watering system for your vegetable garden

The vegetables will be alive when [Dillon Nichols] returns from vacation thanks to this automatic watering controller that he built. This is the second iteration of the project, and deals mainly with replacing the electronics and UI of the controller itself. He detailed the hardware used for watering in a previous post. He plumbed in a solenoid valve with a hose threading on the output end for the soaker hoses snaking through the garden beds. This is a normally open valve but we’d suggest using a normally closed valve as a power outage will let the hose run continuously.

[Dillon] prototyped the design on an Arduino board, then moved to a standalone ATmega328 chip on some protoboard for the final design. He used a 3D printer to make the custom face plate which allows access to the three control buttons and provides a place for the character LCD to be mounted. In addition to the timer settings there is a manual watering switch as well. He used a typical mains light switch, wiring it with a pull-down resistor to make it work well with the Arduino. His explanation of the timer system can be seen after the break.

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SMS controlled irrigation

[Mhkabir] built an irrigation system that communicates by text message. The concept is simple, sending a text message to the system will cause it to switch on the water pump.

Many times we see text message manipulation via the Internet, or using a GSM module. But in this case an inexpensive cellphone is used as the communication interface. The vibration motor has been removed and those connections are monitored to signal incoming messages. Wire leads were soldered to the keypad contacts which allow an Arduino to send out text messages when there is a problem with watering. This isn’t an iron-clad system, as any incoming message will trigger the system and outgoing messages are limited to saved drafts. But a bit of creative programming and we’re sure more functionality could be squeezed out of this hardware.

Web controlled sprinkler automation

[Doug] needed to update his watering system to comply with his city’s new water saving ordinance. The old system wasn’t capable of being programmed to water only on even or odd calendar days. Rather than purchase a replacement he decided to build his own sprinkler controller. It needed to switch 12V solenoids, a job that’s not too hard to design for. Rather than re-invent the wheel, he modified a previous controller design. It is basically an Arduino and Ethernet shield on a his own etched board. In addition to the ATmega328 and an ENC28J60 (for ethernet connectivity) there is a bank of transistors to drive the watering solenoids. Now he has a web interface that controls the watering schedule and is fully in compliance with the new city code.

If you need another way to save when watering your grass you should take a look at the sidewalk-avoiding sprinkler.

Automated rain barrel watering system

[Dmritard96] built this automated watering system to keep his garden growing while he’s out-of-town. It uses rain barrels, which capture and store rainwater, as a source. These barrels provide very low water pressure so he’s added a battery-powered pump along with a solar array for recharging. Don’t worry, if the rain barrels run dry there’s a float sensor that will switch the system over to city water and stave off those wilted leaves.