Starting a Smart Indoor Garden

What’s at stake?  Are you providing life support or inadvertently executing a death sentence?  Are you improving the system, or adding more dependencies?

Bigger than a window herb garden but smaller than a greenhouse?

hydro-diagram-final

A basic, low-cost, reliable, indoor garden is a controlled environment typically in the form of a tent inside a room, inside a garage.  You have one or two AC-powered ventilation fans, recirculating and/or one is the intake and the other is the exhaust.  You have two super bright fluorescent lamps connected to a mechanical/digital timer controlled AC outlet providing the plants with their appropriate light-cycle.  Your plants are contained in soil, or a basic deep water culture hydroponics system. A large plastic reservoir with multiple grow baskets containing clay pellets partially submerged in the nutrient solution being aerated by an aquarium-style air-pump that’s connected to an air-stone, creating bubbles, preventing stagnation, keeping the culture healthy. 

image11
small hydro garden setup

 

temp humidity display

 

An inexpensive household digital temperature and humidity gauge provides daily readouts including minimums and maximums.

lux

 

 

The next “smart” enhancement can be to use a temperature controlled AC outlet for at least one of the fans helping to keep the temperature and humidity in range while reducing the power consumption being used by a continuously operating fan motor.

 

 

Next Up:  Digging Deeper into Indoor Gardening

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What is a “Smart” Garden?

What do you have in mind when you think of a fully-automatic gardening system?

A fully-automatic garden would need to be able to operate much like a microwave oven or a vending machine that asks you to come back later.  A user interface where someone can input their selection and the process begins… plant seeds, provide sufficient water and nutrients, estimated time to harvest, processing…A few months later, the “oven” timer would alert the user that their plant is ready for harvest, or maybe go a step further and process the fruit for immediate consumption.  In the unexpected event that “something unexpected” happen, the manufacturer would have a clause stating they are not responsible for any failure, at most, there would be some sort of error notification followed by instructions on what is needed and how to proceed.

hydro-diagram-final

Smart Garden

A “smart” garden uses electronics for the purpose of making decisions based on defined parameters and provides a more connected environment.  

  • Smart in terms of balancing the system and sustainability.  How well can resources be better managed and used most efficiently?
  • Smart in terms of scalability.  How well can the system scale to accommodate change?
  • Smart in terms of transparency of dependencies.  What is happening behind the scenes that could potentially be problematic later?  Rather than down-play potential problems, it’s important to understand why and how to prevent problems from occurring, even if that decreases the customer’s reliance on your support.
  • Smart in terms of self-reliance, teaching and educating people, as opposed to demanding dependency.
  • Smart in terms of evaluating whether we are improving the system or adding additional dependencies?

 

plant-needs-chart

Next up:  Starting a Smart Indoor Garden

What’s at stake?  Are you providing life support or inadvertently executing a death sentence?  Are you improving the system, or adding more dependencies?

More Info:

Please share with friends and follow to receive a notification when I publish a new article.

 

The Decider

 

The Coreconduit: Garden Controller System was the first version of the hydroMazing project .  The author of the Instructable drones on and on about healthy plants requiring attention and boredom until,

“…I’ve programmed into the Arduino a function I called, “TheDecider” that makes decisions based on maintaining optimum environmental conditions for growing plants. I added 2.4Ghz Wireless Radio Transceiver modules and a modular receiver system so that data is transmitted to within 1000 feet.”

TheDecider” was originally hardcoded with specific values that were fixed in place until I changed them in the Arduino sketch, recompiled, and uploaded.  There are two types of decisions that TheDecider executes, timed-based, and sensor-based rules.  The time-based rules simply compare the current time to the last time the appliance was turned-on or off.  The sensor-based rules use a minimum value threshold and a maximum value threshold that are compared to the current sensor reading and then execute the corresponding action for the appliance.  For example, if the temperature is below 55° then turn-off the ventilation fans; if the temperature is above 80° then turn-on the ventilation fans.  Each appliance has corresponding rules for sensor reading thresholds, time-based automation, and a combination of both, priority depending on the order of the rules.

Today’s hydroMazing uses the Raspberry Pi to provide an interface to the rules and the notifications.  The Pi communicates with the Arduino Nano microcontroller wirelessly sending updates and receiving data. TheDecider is a rules engine that executes the checks sent to it from the Pi.  The settings are stored in the EEPROM of the Arduino Nano allowing it to operate without further communications with the Pi.  hydroMazing doesn’t require an Internet connection to operate with the exception of receiving emails or text-alerts.  The Raspberry Pi can be configured to operate only within your WiFi network and be allowed to send emails and text-alerts.  Or, you can configure your router to allow access from outside and even assign a domain name, such as http://coreconduit.ddns.net.  See my Instructables for steps to a secure Pi.