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.

17 thoughts on “Aquaponic System Uses Arduino For Consistent Performance

  1. That’s really neat. How closed loop is it exactly? It looks like it needs electricity to run the pumps and maybe nutrients for the fish? Has anybody done something similar before?

    1. Yea these systems have been around for several years now. They’re pretty neat. You can find a lot of how to guides out there. Just as you thought, fish food and water pumps are basically what “fuel” the system. Also, obviously some form of grow light, typically the sun. Water pH levels have to be monitored as well as water temperature. Tilapia, Perch, or whatever fresh water fish is being used have a certain range of pH and temperature they can withstand. From what I read, it’s fairly easy maintaining those variables if you live in a climate that doesn’t have really cold winters.

  2. Wow, the unifying factor of all these HaD projects are the dismal write ups. Are there hidden pages somewhere that have a decent report, am I missing the link to the real web pages, what?

    I read thru this report twice, and you’d think a report on a custom aquaponic system would somewhere mention the type of fish and plants involved, or how much energy and nutrients are put into the system in order to get how much (and how often) of what type of food out of the system, etc. etc.

    Also missing – did all that electronics actually make a working system – or did it just go all toxic with dead fish and dead plants but with a nice graph showing up somewhere on all that gear (sms: they’re dead Jim!)?

    Is it really that hard to write up a decent report?

    Build Instructions/Modifications
    Conclusion/Whats next

    1. Agreed. Whenever I see a link to I despair because it’s going to be a really interesting project, with no writeup or technical detail to speak of. Every one of them to me seems to be almost just a preview and nothing else. I get what they’re trying to do with that website, but it’s super not working- due to either the website itself, or the contributors. I’m not surely sure.

    2. Luckily, a major portion of the THP judging criteria (at least according to the judges) will be how complete the documentation is.

      As far as people putting up a ‘project log’ for their kickstarter project, then sending the project in on the tip line… Yeah, be more creative, people.

      1. Why making us waste time looking at projects that are not documented ?

        What’s the point of mentioning in a comment here that documentation is a major portion of the THP judging criteria ?

        Why not make proper documentation a condition for entering ?

      1. Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s pretty hard to teach yourself to work with other people when you do something exclusively alone and in private. This is on top of effective communication being genuinely hard.

  3. Back in 2011 I had done an aquaponics workshop with Eric, who leads Kijani Grows in Oakland, SF Bay Area. He’s a very interesting, very *driven* guy. Communication isn’t his forte, but he is a hardcore ecosystem geek. I suppose for HackADay he assumed his audience wanted to focus on the electronics aspect, which is funny because in such a system the electronics are “just” a nice-to-have to automate some of the system’s controls (like reflow rate of the water in the plantbed, feeding the fish, lighting timing, or many more that this newbie is unaware of). As I recall, his first systems were plain timer based and required frequent surveillance.

    Anyhow, if you have the opportunity I recommend paying him a visit in Oakland.

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