These Builds Grow Food In Cities

You’ve probably heard the term food desert: locations where it’s difficult to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables. One way to help alleviate the problem is to promote urban farming. This week we challenged you to think of ideas that would make growing fresh food in urban areas easier and more enticing. Let’s take a look:

The IKEA Model:

IMG_0429One concept that was popular with this week’s theme was ready-to assemble gardening kits. From personal experience I think this is of huge importance. Once upon a time in a crappy apartment far, far away my wife and I set out to grow tomatoes on the balcony. The plants flourished and bore fruit which the squirrel population of the neighborhood immediately stole while still green. I built this produce cage the following year and we were able to enjoy the fruit of our labors. But not everyone can whip up such a solution without help.

Aker is a set of designs for a modular farming system. The idea is to find a hackerspace or other group with a CNC router and use the plans to cut out different farming “furniture” like a chicken coop, tiered gardening container rack, a wall garden, compost system, and a bee hive. The coop design would serve as caged garden if need be.

Along the same vein is [Eric’s] Urban Gardening IKEA Style. He’s excited to pass along the knowledge he has accumulated over the years. Part of this is a simple to build gardening table that holds rectangular potting containers.

Modular Greenhouse:

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Next up is the concept of modular farming. We like this because the gardens can be scaled based on available space.

Seen here is the Modular Vertical Farming mockup. The system specs different size and features for each pod based on what is being grown inside. Also included in the concept is a monitoring and feedback system which will help each urban farmer achieve success.

Combining modularity with water conservation is the Hydropod project. It’s not purely hydroponics, but the vertical cylinders are designed to pump water up to the top and reclaim it as it exits the bottom.

We don’t want to move on without a brief mention of the HydroPI Garduino. Kudos on maximum-buzz-wordiness in the title. We’re into the concept of including common tools to help monitor and control this hydroponic garden. But for city-dwellers who frequently move, the portable emphasis is valuable.

Uber-Conservation:

capture-condensate-from-acThis one is quite an interesting thought. If you live in a climate where air conditioning is used constantly, chances are pretty good that the humidity the condenser coil removes from the air is going right down the drain. The Condesnate Capture for Micro-Irrigation project wants to change that by sequestering the water for the next urban garden irrigation cycle. We’d love to see some solid data on average condensate output per square foot of building.

This Week’s Winners

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First place this week goes to Aker and will receive an RGB Shades Kit.

Second place this week goes to Modular Vertical Farming and will receive a GoodFET42 JTAG programmer and debugger.

Third place this week goes to Condensate Capture for Micro-Irrigation and will receive a Hackaday CRT Android tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’re moving to a new set of weekly giveaways that are more numerous and valuable. This week we’ll be giving away thirty (30) prizes. Each will be a $50 code to spin some PCBs. More details on that in our next Time for the Prize post. For now make sure you submit an official entry. Start your project on Hackaday.io and use the “Submit-To” button below the picture on the left to submit it for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Urban Gardening and Living off the Land

What kind of impact does growing your own food have on the world’s resources? Jump aboard for a little thought exercise on this week’s Time for the Prize challenge to brainstorm urban gardening and living off the land.

We figure for any kind of meaningful impact there would need to be wide-spread adoption of people growing at least some of their own food locally. This means making the process fun and easy, a challenge well suited for 2015 Hackaday Prize entries. Write down your ideas as a project on Hackaday.io, tag it 2015HackadayPrize and you could win this week’s prizes which are listed below.

Space, Information, and Automation

urban-gardening-thumbTo get rolling, we started thinking about three things that are needed to convince people to grow their own food or live off the land.

First up, you need space to grow. This has been the subject of a number of urban farming hacks like the one seen here which uses downspouts as a vertical garden apparatus. Openings are cut into the front of the tubes, which are each hanging from a PVC rack. Each opening hosts a plant, holding them where they have access to sunlight, while taking up very little space on a sunny balcony or sidewalk.

The concept also includes a bit of automation. It’s a hydroponic garden and simple sensors and controllers handle the water circulation while providing feedback for the gardener through a smartphone app. We think the technology of the system is one way to attract people who would otherwise not take up seed and trowel.

For those new to taking care of plants the other thing to consider is information. Not only does the sensor network need to monitor the system, but something valuable needs to be done with the data. Perhaps someone has an idea for city-wide aggregate data which will look at successes from one urban garden and make suggestions to another?

This is your time to shine. Get those ideas flowing and post them as your entry for the Hackaday Prize. Even if you don’t see the build through the idea can still help someone else make the leap to greatness in their own brainstorming.

This Week’s Prizes

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We’ll be picking three of the best ideas based on their potential to help alleviate a wide-ranging problem, the innovation shown by the concept, and its feasibility. First place will receive an RGB Shades Kit. Second place will receive a GoodFET42 JTAG programmer and debugger. Third place will receive a Hackaday CRT Android tee.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Projects For Solving Big Water Problems

We’re looking for solutions to problems that matter and water waste is high on that list. This week we challenged you to think about Big Water; ideas that could help conserve the water used in agricultural and industrial applications. Take a look at some of the entries, get excited, and start working on your own idea for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

Windtraps

smart-dewpoint-harvesterThat’s right, windtraps. Like the Fremen of Arrakis there were a few hackers who propose systems to pull moisture from the air.

The RainMaker is targeted for urban farming and explores the possibility of passive systems that water themselves automatically. [Hickss] admits that there are some limitations to the concept. Small systems would have limited ability to collect moisture and a need for direct sunlight in order to be solar powered. However, if you’re growing food we figure direct sunlight was a pre-requisite anyway.

On a bit grander scale is the Smart Dew-Point Water Harvester which is shown off in this diagram. The proof of concept at this point is a desktop system that collects moisture on a small heat-sync. Scroll down to that project’s comments and read about the possibility of building the system underground to take advantage of the naturally colder area.

For us the interesting question is can this be done in conjunction with traditional irrigation? Is a lot of irrigation water lost to evaporation and could reclamation through these means make an impact?

Moisture Sensing

water-sensing-orb-thumbSimple but powerful: only water when the plants need it! Here are several entries focused on sensors that make sure fields are being watered more efficiently.

The Adaptive Watering System focuses on this, seeking to retrofit current setups with sensor pods that make up a mesh network. We found the conjecture about distributing and retrieving these pods using a combine harvester quite interesting.

Going along with the networked concept there is a Moisture Monitoring Mesh Network which proposes individual solar-powered spikes. Much of the info for that project is embodied in the diagram, including a mock-up of how the data could be visualized. One thing we hadn’t spent much time thinking about is that fields may be watered unevenly and a sensor network would be a powerful tool in balancing these systems.

Wrapping up this concept is the Soil Moisture Sensor for Agriculture. [JamesW_001] rendered the image seen above as his concept for the sensor. Toss the orbs throughout the fields and the rings of contacts on the outside make up the sensor while the brains held safely inside report back wirelessly.

Plumbing

solar-water-pumpTwo projects tackled plumbing. The first is the Solar Water Pump seen here. Focused on the developing world, this array provides water for multiple applications, including agricultural irrigation, and can be used for wells or surface water sources.

Once that pump gets the water moving it will be taking a trip through some pipes which are another potential source of waste. When buried pipes leak, how will you know about it? That’s the issue tackled by the Water Pipeline Leak Detection and Location project. When the water pipe is buried, two sets of twisted-pair conductors in permeable sheathing are also buried along with it. These redundant sensors would use Time-Domain Reflectometry (TDR) to detect the location of a short between conductors. We’re a bit fuzzy on how this would detect leaks and not rain or irrigation water but perhaps the pipe/wire pairs would be in their own water-shedding sleeve?

This Week’s Winners

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First place this week goes to the Smart Garden and will receive a DSLogic 16-channel Logic Analyzer.

Second place this week goes to Soil Moisture Sensor for Agriculture and will receive an Adafruit Bluefruit Bluetooth Low Energy sniffer.

Third place this week goes to Solar Water Pump and will receive a Hackaday robot head tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas this collection of entries may have inspired. Start your project on Hackaday.io and add the tag 2015HackadayPrize.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Big Water

I inadvertently started a vigorous debate a few weeks ago with the Time for the Prize post about a shower feedback loop. That debate was on the effect of curbing household water since households make up a relatively small percentage of total use. I think we should be thinking of solutions for all parts of the problem and so this week we’ll be looking for ideas that can help conserve water in large-scale use cases. Primarily these are agricultural and industrial but if you know of others feel free to make your case.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 80% of all ground and surface water is used in agriculture. I’m not particularly interested in hearing a debate on water rights and the like (there’s a rather interesting article here if you want more on that). The agriculture industry produces food, and employs a lot of people. The conflict is of course long growing season versus lack of water compounded by severe drought. Even if we could move our food production elsewhere it would be a monumental undertaking to also relocate the infrastructure supporting it. Of course we need to look to the future, but can we leverage our engineering prowess now to conserve the water that is being used right now?

Enter with an Idea

Write down your ideas for agricultural and industrial water conservation as a project on Hackaday.io. Tag the project 2015HackdayPrize. Do this by next Monday and you’re in the running for this week’s awesome prizes.

You aren’t necessarily committing yourself to finishing out the build. At this point we want to get the idea machine rolling. One good idea could spark the breakthrough that makes a real difference in the world.

This Week’s Prizes

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We’ll be picking three of the best ideas based on their potential to help alleviate a wide-ranging problem, the innovation shown by the concept, and its feasibility. First place will receive a DSLogic 16-channel Logic Analyzer. Second place will receive a an Adafruit Bluefruit Bluetooth Low Energy sniffer. Third place will receive a Hackaday robot head tee.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Aging in Place Prize Projects that Made us say Wow

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is all about solutions to problems affecting a large number of people, and aging touches everyone. This week we were on the lookout for the entries best addressing the problem of Aging in Place. This means being able to live in your home and community independently and comfortably as one ages. It is as important to the aging as it is to their friends and family; a topic well worth your hacking skills and engineering brilliance.

Monitor Warning Signs

There were several entries that focused on monitoring for out-of-the-ordinary behavior. The Personal Medical Assistant seeks to leverage the sensor array and computing power of smartphones combined with ancillary data harvesting from things like an ECG chest band or a pulse oximeter watch. The idea is to watch for a series of precursors to health emergencies and warn both the person being monitored and their support network of family or caretakers.

The whimsically title Ye Oldie Monitor focuses on a similar idea with a more passive role. The concept suggests a base-station and a series of remote monitors throughout the living area, like PIR motion sensors, to alert for notable variations on a person’s normal day-to-day activities. In a similar vein the LiteHouse project would retrofit the household lighting fixtures with motion detectors. These automatically light each area to help prevent low-light accidents like falls, while also monitoring for signs of duress.

Solving the Communication Barrier

being-thre-with-pi-thumbWatching out for each other is complicated by distance.  We saw a few entries that try to alleviate that, like the Being There with Pi project. Smartphones and computers are a great way to communicate, until you need help making your smartphone or computer work in order to do so. This project looks at developing a dedicated video conferencing system based around the Rasperry Pi. The point is to develop an excruciatingly simple, robust form of live video communications.

julias-speakerphoneContinuing on the note of simplified communications is Julia’s Speakerphone project. [Julia] is living with multiple sclerosis that has resulted in her being bed bound for almost a decade. Making phone calls has been both rare and leaves us wondering why this sort of solution isn’t already in wide adoption. The solution is a combination of a Bluetooth hands-free calling module, Android tablet, Skype a pay-as-you-go cellphone, and an interesting button hack for [Julia] to activate the hand’s free. It is crafted with leaf switches and polymorph and worn as a bracelet. The proof of concept is there and we can’t wait to see this evolve into a more robust and extensible solution.

This Week’s Winners

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First place this week goes to the Personal Medical Assistant and will receive a RE:load Pro programmable constant current load.

Second place this week goes to Julia’s Speakerphone and will receive a Sparkfun Microview.

Third place this week goes to Being There with Pi and will receive a Hackaday CRT-android head tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas this collection of entries may have inspired.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Aging in Place

Aging in Place is a growing issue facing the world. As the population begins to live longer, healthier lives we need to continue developing assistive technologies that will facilitate independence and safe living long into our twilight years. That is the topic of this week’s Time for the Prize. Enter your idea for Aging in Place by starting a project on Hackaday.io and tagging it 2015HackadayPrize. Do this by next Monday and you’re in the running for this week’s awesome prizes.

What is Aging in Place?

I use the “define:” search term on Google all the time and for Aging in Place it turns up the Center for Disease Control’s definition:

“the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

I love this definition. How easy is it to get behind the concept of better quality of life for all as we age? Still not getting the thought process flowing? After listing the prizes I’ll illustrate a couple of projects that will give you a good idea of what people are working on.

This Week’s Prizes

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We’ll be picking three of the best ideas based on their potential to help alleviate a wide-ranging problem, the innovation shown by the concept, and its feasibility. First place will receive a RE:load Pro programmable constant current load. Second place will receive a Sparkfun Microview. Third place will receive a Hackaday CRT-android head tee.

 Hacks that Help

pill-reminderrx-timer-capsThe easiest examples I can think of relate to medicine. A lot of the time people can be independent and high-functioning as long as they take the right medicine at the right time. The simplest way to ensure this is to use technology that helps track medication schedules. Pill reminders can monitor a pill case, sending reminders to you if you miss your schedule, and alertimg family or caretakers if you don’t respond to the reminder.

We’ve also seen technology built right into the cap of the prescription bottle. These caps have a timer that resets to zero every time the bottle is opened. But anyone who has taken several medicines on different time schedules can tell you that this can still be very confusing. We wonder if anyone can prototype a system that would use computer vision to verify and log the pills each time you take them?

Of course the prescription reminders are just one of a multitude of low-hanging fruit. Safety is another aspect. Here’s an entry that seeks to give peace of mind that the stove is off for those dealing with Alzheimer’s or memory issues.

Now you see what we’re getting at. What ideas do you have that can move the goal of Aging in Place forward?


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Environment-Related Ideas

You should already know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize, but have you submitted your entry yet? All it takes to get started is talking about one idea you have to address a problem faced by a large number of people. To help get the ball rolling we’re giving away some prizes to three entries that discuss possible solutions to Environment-Related problems.

For your chance at this week’s goodies all you need to do is document your idea on Hackaday.io and tag it “2015HackadayPrize”.

This Week’s Prizes:

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On Monday, March 30th we’ll take a look at all the entries tagged 2015HackadayPrize and choose three that best fit the topic of Environment-Related. The best will receive the SmartMatrix 32×32 RGB LED matrix along with a Teensy 3.1 to drive it. The next pick will receive a Bus Pirate and probe cable. The final prize will be a Hackaday Robot Head Tee.

An Idea is All You Need for Entry

shower-toilet-tank-ideaWe’re not messing with you; all you need to win these early prizes is an idea. One of the most powerful pieces of the Hackaday Prize is the pollination of thought. Your idea might be the tipping point for someone else’s breakthrough or vice-versa. Start a project on Hackaday.io and add the tag “2015HackadayPrize”.

Pictured to the right is a whiteboard sketch by [MechaTweak] which illustrates one very simple shower water-saving idea (we think this was prompted by our column on the topic last week). The idea here is that instead of running water down the shower drain as you wait for it to heat up, the water cold be sequestered in a holding tank and used for flushing the toilet the rest of the day. This will certainly be in the running as it addresses the issue of water conservation. Going along with our Environment-related topic you might also tackle alternative energy production, helping detect or curb pollution, making recycling easier, reducing waste, etc.

As we move along we’ll be awarding bigger and better prizes. Submitting an idea now will give you an early start on your planning. You’ll still be eligible for future prizes, and you may submit as many entries as you like.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: