|13||Low-Cost Automated System for Growing Produce at Home
|# Low-Cost Automated System for Growing Produce at Home
- Sanjana Sastry (ssastry3)
- Ciara Ward (ciara2)
- Stephanie Sieben (ssieben2)
During the pandemic, plants have been both a way to sustain yourself and also elevate your mood. Many people have the desire for fresh and organic produce, but they don’t have the means to get it. For one, many college students don’t have cars to go to the store all the time and organic food is usually above their budget. A great alternative is to grow your own organic food, which has the added benefit of relieving stress-induced depression. However, many working-class people don’t necessarily have the time/knowledge/means to keep their plants thriving all the time. We will use a microcontroller to toggle the lights and water.
Making fresh food resources expensive only increases the gap for those on lower income and their ability to eat healthy/sustain themselves.
Create a vertical-farming based automated system that provides the best growing conditions for a variety of different plans. It will be designed with an adjustable light and specific watering schedules to match the needs of the designated plants.
To optimize space, the setup can be placed anywhere, not just near windows. There is a built-in lighting system that allows for this flexibility. The lighting and watering controls are determined by the Plant Database which contains the details of the needs of several different plants, specifically produce.
# Solution Components
- Physical model: There will be a rack-based system where different plant-groups are grown on each rack. Each rack will also have an individual lighting/watering system and all of these systems will be connected together. Our system will be engineered such that height adjustability for both the lights and racks is possible.
- We plan to create a system that stores information about each plant and tells the prototype how to behave in order to keep the plants alive
- Each plant will have a grouping of rgb LEDs to provide artificial sunlight, plants thrive off different light intensities and colors
- The plants will be bottom watered with a string that draws up water as the roots need it. In order to do this, we will have a water basin below that has a water level detector to let the user know when the water needs to be refilled
- Each pot would be equipped with a moisture sensor to alert the user if the soil dries out too much where the plant may suffer, this dryness level would be determined by the plant database
## Subsystem 1 : Watering
All plants need water to survive and one of the most common problems with taking care of plants indoors is improper watering.
One of our possible watering methods entails a simple string in water method. There will be a string in the bottom of the pot in contact with the soil and the other end in water. This system draws up water as needed, just as roots draw water from the soil when it needs a drink. Some other methods include a combination of soaker hoses (deposit water directly into soil and can be buried under) and timers, or a programmable automatic drip-watering system (have shortlisted one or two from Walmart,etc.) The watering components would be connected to the microcontrollers such that different plants would be given nutrients based on their unique needs.
Every plant has different drought tolerances, meaning they handle lack of water in different ways. The moisture sensor would keep tabs on the moisture of the soil to see if this watering system is sufficient or if one plant is hogging more of the water and the water in the basin runs low. The moisture sensor would be connected to the plant database to which will be prompted to water the plants when necessary.
- Moisture sensor
- Some sort of watering process (as discussed above)
- PH sensor
## Subsystem 2 : Light
The amount of light and duration of light is dependent on the needs of the plant, designated in the Plant database. The intensity of light is measured in lumens, and can be measured by a light meter. If a certain plant requires less or more intensity than others, it would be noted in the database and the light would match the corresponding amount of lumens. The light components would be connected to the microcontrollers such that different plants would be given nutrients based on their unique needs.
The duration of light administered can be monitored and maintained by programmable light timers. Depending on the needs of the plants, the lights would turn on and off accordingly. Another important aspect of lighting is the distance from the bulbs to the tops of the plants. As the plants grow taller the structure should be adjustable so as to maintain the needed distance. This can be achieved by creating a structure that has manual adjustable capabilities.
Out of the three kinds of grow lights (fluorescent, high-intensity discharge, and LED), LEDs seem to provide the most optimal results. They use significantly less power to produce more light than traditional CFLs, and they produce very little heat.
- Programmable light timers
- LED Grow lights
## Subsystem 3: Metric Display
Each rack on this system would be for a different plant group. We will have a display that displays the metrics of both the moisture and possibly PH levels in each rack. Logistically permitting, the display would also show the light/water specifications for each rack.
# Criterion For Success
- A functional display that constantly monitors and displays moisture and PH levels in the separate plant racks
- Functional watering system and light system controlled by microcontroller on top of PCB.
- Watering system consistently delivers the required amount of water at the right times
- The lighting system delivers the correct intensity at the correct times set by the timers
- The structure allows for adjustability in terms of lighting, rack height, etc. as the plants grow