Matthew Reed writes:

HydroBot is a modular control system for automating hydroponic gardens. This system is designed with three objectives in mind. First, it will facilitate optimal growing techniques by using scheduling and feedback control loops to maintain state and adapt to changing conditions. Second, it will simplify controls interfaces, making setup and use easier for less tech-savvy gardeners. Finally, the components will be designed in a modular way to increase flexibility and support every imaginable garden configuration. HydroBot aims to bring sensors and actuators together through automation, which will allow hobby growers to focus on growing and not on constantly monitoring and adjusting the environment to keep their garden stable.

More details at Protofusion.org.

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  1. Hilarious. I don’t see any actual hardware yet, this looks to be at block diagram stage.
    Yet another software guy who perhaps thinks he can build a killer hydroponic system.

    Let me just say this: there is no such thing as an awesome hydroponic system that will drive widespread adoption. I have done deep water culture. Even the simplest systems need some care, especially during sowing, or managing long stems, pollinating tomatoes, organic pest control, etc. Also, modifying pH or nutrients is not practical for most growers, these things require a significant commitment, a bit here a bit there and it all adds up to quite a lot. The sensor suite looks like over-the-top optimistic. For example, you can’t do much about lights once you fix your site, and proper grow lights aren’t cheap, neither is electricity.

    Few urban folks can sustain growing batches year in year out, most lose interest after a few rounds. If you want a good harvest, it requires commitment. Most urban folks have too much on their plates already, modern apps and services all want your attention, hydroponics won’t be near the top of people’s priorities.

    Well, them software folks are welcome to prove me wrong. Maybe someone will hit upon a killer solution, like Arduino. Good luck…

    1. Hi KH,

      I appreciate your feedback. I’ve been growing hydroponically for several years now using a variety of techniques, so I certainly understand the complexity of these types of systems. I initially started this project to help simplify the process for myself and hopefully help some others along the way. I have some working hardware and software prototypes in addition to the broad block diagram and description here, but I haven’t had time to write about it all yet. You can follow my progress on the Protofusion blog, and maybe I will be honored with more posts here!

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments, it is appreciated.
        I’m concerned by the look of the sensor suite — looks like a case of wanting to optimize through data crunching or data mining. Yet given the masses of data mining books, there are also books that preaches the opposite.

        With respect to hydroponics, I think optimal conditions will be hard to differentiate from good enough conditions in terms of plant harvest etc, it’s like chasing after the unicorn. For urban growers, I think monitoring EC should be good enough w.r.t. nutrients. For pH, I just use paper strips from time to time. I’m leaning more towards fertigation these days, basil is an easy and productive plant for the lazy programmer…

        It’s true that with a healthy budget, great hydroponic systems can be created. But like “smart homes”, it doesn’t look anywhere like becoming mainstream. Serious commercial units are always stifled by their cost. Anyway I also recall that someone at Sparkfun is also doing hydroponics. I look forward to hear from this project in the future, good luck!

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