Chili-Gation With The MSP430

[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.

23 thoughts on “Chili-Gation With The MSP430

  1. I noticed the same. All that hardware is trivial. Not even a hack, could be done with a simple mechanic timer. What would be interesting is to see some measurements of soil dampness throughout the day, and advice on how often to water, how much to water, etc. That would actually make use of that MSP430. Also, there is more than one way to measure soil dampness, thoughts on that would be interesting.

    1. Yep. and that is the problem TI cant get people to use their MSP because all their libraries for it SUCK. so all you see is really simple things done. even the TI engineers cant do much with the really poorly written libraries that TI supplies.

  2. Other than sandy well drained soil, I thought peppers liked it hot. One doesn’t think of England as the hot foods center of the world. Definitely need to monitor soil moisture.

  3. Their simple drawing indicates it is an open loop system — no measurement of the soil moisture. If it predicts soil moisture based on ambient temperature/humidity it isn’t mentioned.

    A friend gave me a 5 foot tall potted cactus as a wedding present. It took me just a few months to kill it from too much moisture at the roots, due to the pot’s drainage hole getting plugged. Too much water can be as bad for a plant as too little.

  4. I come here for cool interesting projects and ideas and to learn something (the focus for me is learning something).
    I dislike Hackvertisements. Seems like they keep popping up :( If you are going to have them make them more informative, this article just left loads of questions.

    I am interested in automated watering and am working on a system for my garden so would have liked more info. For example how did he calculate the watering schedule?
    Is it battery powered?

  5. Hi, Hackaday folks…. I’m the ham-fisted hacker that put this thing together, and I agree with many of the comments above, especially about fresh peppers being great. This project was completed at home outside of my day job at TI.

    Moving from England I really expected the chilies to thrive here in Dallas, but when they are planted in a pot on an apartment balcony they dry out during the day and although they don’t die in a day, the flowers fall off and that means no chilis!

    I have no issues posting the details of the system, it’s really simple, but to give you a quick overview, there is an MSP430FR5969 Launchpad as the controller, I use the Sharp memory in Pixel display Booster Pack to show time and also enable setting of intervals and pump run times.

    Programmed using Energia within CCS as I wanted to use the debug features. (I’m sure the code is bad, redundancy, bad practices, etc but this was a one off home project).

    The little relay board was from Amazon, I used a dual as I had an idea to create a turntable to rotate the pot during the day (it’s on the “TO DO” list) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EDMIWRE/ref=pe_385040_30332200_TE_item

    The pump was from Amazon, easy to use, give it some volts and away it goes, no priming = no hassle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HLCOXFI/ref=pe_385040_30332200_TE_item

    I borrow the raw 5V from the USB wall power adapter to supply both the Launchpad and the relay board, everything else is wired with 0.1″ headers and screw terminals, but I can provide a connection diagram easily enough.

    The system is open loop, on/off control at present, the watering schedule wasn’t exactly calculated (remember ham-fisted hacker here) but it was put together more by trial and error, however I’m playing with a few soil moisture ideas and plan to add that at some point in the future, this is definitely the way to go. I should also mention that the pot is a self-watering pot, so really this system dispenses water into the self watering reservoir of the pot, the plants then take as much water as is required.

    The whole thing was thrown together in a few hours, with a few more spent on the code, it ain’t pretty, but the 3 plants that I grew from seed last year are still alive and giving me more Habanero’s than I know what to do with :)

    Regards
    ~ DaveS

    1. “…but the 3 plants that I grew from seed last year are still alive and giving me more Habanero’s than I know what to do with :)”

      You can send the surplus to me. (c:

  6. I can assure you that folks in Texas have been growing Chile’s for years, all without the need for gadgets being needed. Frankly, I am more surprised he was successful in England, given these plants prefer a really hot climate.

    1. My issue with plants, even those suited to the climate, is that I’m negligent. A plant doesn’t complain if it hasn’t been watered and so I wind up with dead plants. I have a little avocado sprout that has somehow survived almost 12 months using my system of “oh, shoot! I forgot to water for three weeks!”

  7. The problem was growing in pots. The roots only have a small source for moisture, plus if they are terra-cotta, wind etc. will dry them out quickly. I realize apt. dwellers don’t have much choice.

    BTW, for more heavy-duty system, go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and look for their electrically operated water valves. These can handle 1/2″ and 3/4″ pipe. I am building my own system, not using the off the shelf controllers. I may add a web browser interface.

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