Best way to begin for controlling hydroponics setup

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by pengyou, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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    I am a newb at electronics but it seems that it is a part of the solution for what I want to accomplish. My self imposed goal is to create a model for a hydroponics setup for city folks to use in their home. If I am successful, my presentation will include something like "one cubic meter of space can produce enough vegetables for an average adult." Not sure if that number is correct - that is what I hope to discover in the next 3 years.
    Each hydroponic "cube" will have at least 3 sets of lights, pumps, heaters, fans and valves to control. The idea is to be able to connect them, to daisy chain them, so that each "cube" can use the same controller. I know there is the raspberry pi, android boxes and a few other objects that can be used as controllers.

    My question: I am looking for some kind of controller that will allow me to control a multitude of devices - possibly as many as 16 per cube, that can be expanded to control other cubes, each with as many as 16 devices, that is "easiest" ( I know that it might not be easy so I choose the relative form of the word) to program, and will provide the lowest overall cost after expansion (some systems I have seen are cheap to buy the initial unit but expansions are more expensive). use of wifi would be nice but I also realize that it will probably raise the cost significantly and probably make management of the system even more complex.
     
  2. bertus

    Administrator

    Apr 5, 2008
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    Hello,

    Perhaps the following query might give you some ideas:
    hydroponics setup

    Bertus
     
  3. urb-nurd

    Member

    Jul 9, 2014
    269
    3
    This is down my alley ;)

    You are wanting a microcontroller for this application - check out arduino!
    Arduino is cheap and simple to learn due to the vast multitude of resources online.
    A PLC would work but it wouldn't be my first choice.
    The raspberry pi can function as an arduino but may offer additional features if you are wanting things like a webcam to monitor the plants.

    This has been something i have been daydreaming about for a while.
    You can get alot of ......."veg" from a metre squared! haha
     
  4. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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    Thanks! Now that you mention it, I will most likely have light and/or temperature sensors in each level, so maybe the pi is the way to go? How will expansion work? Can I have one pi to "rule them all" with a multitude of hubs spread out to perform the tasks?
     
  5. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    One thing I'd look at is a purpose-built data acquisition device such as LabJack U3HV (the one I have). It's ~$120, but already has solved most of the problems you will encounter. It would readily handle all the sensors and controllers you need for a cube. With multiplexing, you could probably control multiple cubes with a single unit.

    This thing attaches to a computer via USB, and that gives you full control over its function. I've used Excel, for instance, to grab and plot data from a handful of sensors. It also has some network protocols built-in that, I think, would allow you to access and control the device over a network. I haven't done any of that and don't really understand it, but the guys that built it do. I think that could be incredibly useful for your multi-cube project.

    Once you have the kinks worked out in your hydroponic system, THEN you could look for a cheaper, build-your-own controller solution. For now, you have a lot of other problems to solve and in my opinion you don't want to get lost in the weeds trying to build a complicated control system. Spend more time on specifying pumps, valves, lighting and on and on.
     
  6. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    I'd start with a back-of-the-napkin analysis. A hydroponic farm basically converts electricity to food. Electricity is purchased, converted to light, then the energy is used to fix carbon into carbohydrates, which we can eat. There are inefficiencies at every step that are well known, and the costs of the inputs and outputs are also known. So, you should be able to calculate what a kg of hydroponic food costs, in electricity bills, to produce.

    Not to discourage you, but I predict you'll find that the only profitable crops to raise are the illegal ones. The customer viewpoint: "Why would I devote some of my limited living space to spending $100 growing something I can buy in the store for $5?"
     
  7. urb-nurd

    Member

    Jul 9, 2014
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    My sentiments mirror that of wayneh.

    However that shouldn't stop you ploughing ahead - just re think the end goal ;)
    I have been messing with an automated grow solution for open minded mycologists, not too far from your premise.

    I think i know what the score is (i work in the industry in the legal states) with what and why you are trying this.
    There is ALOT to consider before you can start looking at control - like what EXACTLY you will control and to what constraints.

    Pm me if you wish - should my assumptions tend to truth
     
    rawlings.mat likes this.
  8. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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    Thanks! So it seems that the first step is to set up the hydroponic system and then determine the needs. I have seen other people role out numbers for hydroponics and always see some flaws in logic. First of all, they do not use the costs of organic produce when making comparisons. Organic produce is 2 or 3 times as expensive as common veggies. Secondly, they usually do not prorate the cost of equipment over the life of the equipment, and often just make it a lump sum expense. It is expensive...that is a given...but, for me, and many other people, being able to raise my own pesticide free veggies carries some benefits that also cannot be calculated in $$. Now, my task is to see how to make it work...then to see how it can be made to work for less money :)
     
  9. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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  10. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
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    Quote pengyou, "they do not use the costs of organic produce when making comparisons." Thats because hydroponic produce is not "organicaly" grown.
     
  11. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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    I don't completely understand the term "organic" or the requirements for such, but I have seen chemicals advertised for hydroponics that are labeled "organic". I have done a little bit of research on this - enough to know that there "SEEMS" to be a standard for it. At any rate, there is virtually no need to use pesticides for hydroponics, and pesticides are my main reason for buying organics.
     
  12. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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  13. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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  14. pengyou

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jan 9, 2015
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    If I can come up with a simple plan (simple plan means simple tutorials for sprouting seeds, simple plan for constructing the green house, simple plan for obtaining the materials, etc) I would like to present my idea to one of the Chinese Federations that deal with the poor in China as a partial solution to helping them get nutritious food, dependably, on a year round basis - something that is a little bit difficult to do in desert like conditions.
     
  15. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
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    To accelerate the growth even more, use a diesel generator just outside if your home to power all of those lights. Thenpump all of the CO2 and water vapor exhaust from that generator into your growing area.
     
  16. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    The carbon monoxide will do a great job killing off all insect pests.
     
  17. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
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    This is not a true statement. Unless you can come up with a way to seal the growing area off from the rest of the world, like "clean room" conditions. Any pest or fungal disease that can strike an outside environment can be also brought into a hydroponic grow area.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifes...d174f6-91f2-11e3-b3f7-f5107432ca45_story.html
     
  18. rawlings.mat

    New Member

    May 17, 2016
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    @urb-nurd. I would like to communicate further if you get this message.


    Mods edit:
    Please don't post Email on forum, it will bring the spammer robot to the forum and send the spam your Email box, your Email already deleted.

    The member urb-nurd already over 5 months had not visit the forum.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2016
  19. KMoffett

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 19, 2007
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    Mat (?),
    The OP hasn't been back here in a year and a half. :(
    Ken
     
  20. ScottWang

    Moderator

    Aug 23, 2012
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    He was not asked to the OP, he was asked to another member urb-nurd in #3.
     
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