Internet of Plants
The Internet of Plants (IoP for short) is a project aimed at automating the growing of plants, with the following long-term goals:
- Creating easy to use, affordable products to monitor and maintain plants at home, at the office and elsewhere.
- Enabling effective, affordable and highly scalable indoor farming solutions.
After starting the project earlier this year, the focus has been on selecting and validating the sensors, pumps and lighting hardware that will be used. This has led us to pick capacitive soil humidity sensors, along with peristaltic pumps to provide automated irrigation for small (1-16 plants) setups.
For gathering information on the behaviour of the 555 timer circuit-based capacitive soil sensor, we set up a simple test involving a singular plant for which the soil humidity got measured, with a corresponding peristaltic pump providing water to the plant's soil based on a predefined trigger point.
So far this has managed to keep the plant alive for months now without manual intervention, while allowing us to gather a lot of data on the behaviour of these sensors as well as on the effective delivery of water, such as the delivery location, so as to not cause too short of a feedback loop between the application of the water and the sensor reading the 'all clear' level before the plant's roots have had a chance to fully be supplied with water.
Specific to the indoor farming setup are the grow LED lights. Here we ran a number of tests on a variety of grow lights, ranging from simple LED strips to 5W full spectrum LEDs. These are to be integrated into a shelf-based setup for the next step, for which we already have begun integration tests:
Seen here is a watermelon plant along with two bell pepper plants in a simple configuration with two angled grow lamps. This will be developed into a single frame-based setup that can be mounted directly into the shelves, along with the cooling and air circulation solution.
Still under heavy development is the shelf-based irrigation setup for soil-based indoor farming. A prototype for this will be finalised over the coming weeks, with the first test setups for hydroponics and fogponics to be added during that time period.
As target crops to grow in the indoor farm, we are looking at bell peppers, water melons, rice, strawberries, various herbs and more. The light controllers we'll be integrating should allow us to adjust the lighting and watering in each shelf section to optimise the conditions for each plant type.
Please stay tuned for further updates as the project escalates from this early R&D phase into an industrial level.