MoAgriS: A Modular Agriculture System

Hackaday.io user [Prof. Fartsparkle] aims to impress us again with MoAgriS, a stripped-down rig for bringing crops indoors and providing them with all they need.

This project is an evolution of their submission to last year’s Hackaday Prize, MoRaLiS — a modular lighting system on rails — integrating modules for light, water, airflow, fertilizer and their appropriate sensors. With an emphasis on low-cost, a trio of metal bars serve as the structure, power and data transmission medium with SAM D11 chips shepherding each plant.

Reinforced, angled PCBs extend rails horizontally allowing the modules to be mounted at separate heights. Light module? Up top. Water sensor? Low on the rails above the pot’s rim. You get the idea. 3D printed clamps attach the rails to the plant’s pot with a touch of paint to keep it from sticking out like a sore thumb among the leaves.

Airflow modules replicate wind currents — the lack of which results in thin, fragile stems — and light modules include a soft white LED to accompany and mitigate the full-spectrum LEDs’ pink neon-like glow. To manage watering the plants, [Prof. Fartsparkle] initially wanted to use one pump to distribute water to every plant, but found some smaller pumps at a low enough price-point to make one per plant viable — and simpler to integrate as a module as well!

If you prefer your gardening to take place outdoors, consider a robot assistant to tackle your weeding.

An Indoor Garden? That’s Arduino-licious

Gardening is a rewarding endeavour, and easily automated for the maker with a green thumb. With simplicity at its focus,  Hackaday.io user [MEGA DAS] has whipped up a automated planter to provide the things plants crave: water, air, and light.

[MEGA DAS] is using a TE215 moisture sensor to keep an eye on how thirsty the plant may be, a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor to check the airflow around the plant, and a BH1750FVI light sensor for its obvious purpose. To deliver on these needs, a 12V DC water pump and a small reservoir will keep things right as rain, a pair of 12V DC fans mimic a gentle breeze, and a row of white LEDs supplement natural light when required.

The custom board is an Arduino Nano platform, with an ESP01 to enable WiFi capacity and a Bluetooth module to monitor the plant’s status while at home or away. Voltage regulators, MOSFETs, resistors, capacitors, fuses — can’t be too careful — screw header connectors, and a few other assorted parts round out the circuit. The planter is made of laser cut pieces with plenty of space to mount the various components and hide away the rest. You can check out [MEGA DAS]’ tutorial video after the break!

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Sensing Soil Moisture: You’re Doing it Wrong!

If you compulsively search online for inexpensive microcontroller add-ons, you will see soil moisture measurement kits. [aka] built a greenhouse with a host of hacked hardware including lights and automatic watering. What caught our attention among all these was Step 5 in their instructions where [aka] explains why the cheap soil sensing probes aren’t worth their weight in potting soil. Even worse, they may leave vacationers with a mistaken sense of security over their unattended plants.

The sensing stakes, which come with a small amplifier, work splendidly out of the box, but if you recall, passing current through electrodes via moisture is the recipe for electrolysis and that has a pretty profound effect on metal. [Aka] shows us the effects of electrolysis on these probes and mentions that damaged probes will cease to give useful information which could lead to overworked pumps and flooded helpless plants.

There is an easy solution. Graphite probes are inexpensive to make yourself. Simply harvest them from pencils or buy woodless pencils from the art store. Add some wires and hold them with shrink tube, and you have probes which won’t fail you or your plants.

Here’s some garden automation if this only whet your whistle, and here’s a robotic friend who takes care of the weeds for you.

Raspberry Pi Is The Brains Behind Automated Greenhouse

[Asa Wilson] and his wife picked up a 10’x12′ greenhouse from Harbor Freight that for their location required some serious changes, understandable since they’re in Colorado on the western slope of Pike’s Peak where the winds are strong and the normal growing season is short. After assembling it on a concrete footing and adding some steel bracing, they got to work on adding an environment management system based around a Raspberry Pi. Read on for a look at the modifications they made.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Smart Composting System

Composting serves an important purpose in our society, reusing our food scraps and yard waste to fertilize gardens rather than fill up landfills. Knowing that most people don’t compost, [Darian Johnson] set out to create a Arduino-controlled composting system to make it as simple as possible. It monitors your bin’s moisture, temperature, and gas emissions to ensure it’s properly watered and aerated.

[Darian]’s project combines a MQ4 gas sensor that detects combustible gas, a soil moisture sensor, and a temperature and humidity probe. The nearby water reservoir is monitored by an ultrasonic sensor that keeps track of the water level; a pump triggered by a TIP120 turns on the water. Meanwhile, a servo-controlled vent keeps the air flowing just right.

The Smart Composting System sounds like it would be useful to home gardeners; it’s a Best Product finalist in the 2017 Hackaday Prize.

An Electric Fence for Snails and Slugs

Anyone with a garden knows about doing battle with pests. Weeds, bugs, rabbits, birds — all of them try to get a bite out of our flowers and vegetables. Some of the worst are mollusks. Snails and slugs are notorious plant attackers. Tomato plants don’t stand a chance when these beasts come to town. Some folks would reach for the pesticide or even the salt, but [wheldot] had a better idea. He built an electric fence to keep these pests at bay.

Much like the electric fences used for large mammals like horses or cows, this fence is designed to deter, but not kill slugs and snails. The design is incredibly simple – two bare wires are strung around the raised garden about one centimeter apart. The wires are connected to a nine-volt battery. No boost circuit, no transistors, just nine volts across two wires. That’s all it takes to turn a slug away.

[Wheldot] didn’t come up with this hack — it’s been around in various forms for years. The nine-volt battery provides just enough current to annoy the slug or snail. The best part is that when not actively shocking a slug, the only current passing through the circuit is the whatever is passed through the wood.

Reddit user [gnichol1986] measured that at around 180 kΩ through wet wood. That means a typical 400 mAh battery would last around 34 days of continuous rain. Even in the UK it doesn’t rain that much. With a little work insulating the wires from the wood, that could be extended to the full shelf life of the battery.

You know, slugs and critters get into electronics too, so don’t forget a waterproof case to make sure your project stays slug free!

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Robot Lives in Your Garden and Eats the Weeds

You can’t deny the appeal of gardening. Whether it’s a productive patch of vegetables or a flower bed to delight the senses, the effort put into gardening is amply rewarded. Nobody seems to like the weeding, though — well, almost nobody; I find it quite relaxing. But if you’re not willing to get down and dirty with the weeds, you might consider deploying a weed-eating garden robot to do the job for you.

Dubbed the Tertill, and still very much a prototype, the garden robot is the brainchild of some former iRobot employees. That’s a pretty solid pedigree, and you can see the Roomba-esque navigation scheme in action — when it bumps into something it turns away, eventually covering the whole garden. Weed discrimination is dead simple: short plants bad, tall plants good. Seedlings are protected by a collar until they’re big enough not to get zapped by the solar-powered robot’s line trimmer.

It’s a pretty good idea, but the devil will be in the details. Will it be able to tend the understory of gardens where weeds tend to gather as the plants get taller? Can it handle steep-sided raised beds or deeply mulched gardens? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this Australian weed-bot.

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