It’s good to be back from summer! After getting back to classes and re-evaluating the current iteration of the hydroponics control panel website, I’ve realized its a mess. The HTML and CSS is very poor quality and the overall layout/design is disorganized. I will be completely redoing it so it better represents the necessary features as well as properly integrate PHP/SQL functionality.
The new system upstairs is looking good. Alongside a complete redesign of the lab utilizing parallel growing tubes as well as a water system that prevents siphoning, we’ve also made a frame to hold up the grow lights. I had to use the miter saw to cut the planks so that’d they’d be able to serve as support beams.
After more research, I have found documents from the Public Policy Institute of California that contains salinity measurements from different regions in the San Joaquin Valley and what it classifies as dangerous. This is a great find, as it allows us to finally have an idea of what kind of salinity levels we should be testing for in our lab
Controlling an arduino with another arduino. pic.twitter.com/xJPR9GsPJY
— WISRD (@WISRD) March 11, 2019
I have managed to control an Arduino Uno with another Arduino Uno. This is the first step in understanding and assembling the sensor system for the hydroponics lab, as it will need to be able to facilitate communication between the WiFi micro-controller and the probe hub.
The website mock-up is now live. Currently, it doesn’t have any functionality, but serves to demonstrate what the final product may look like. It still needs some tweaking, though, and currently doesn’t scale very well to different screen sizes.
Here is the mockup design for the online hydroponics control panel. A member of the team would be able to monitor different parts of the system as well as control the light and pump. There would be a graph readout as well, presenting the previous week of data. I will soon convert this simple mockup into an actual HTML page.
This is our current tube design for splitting water between the output to the grow-tubes, and the output back into the water reservoir. It will be level with the grow tubes. The side connected with a valve will be the reservoir output. Further testing will be performed, and a design will be finalized.
I have successfully created a php file that can connect to a local SQL database, and insert data. The file is in the WISRD IT folder under the name “Baker”.
In continuing the creation of a working hydroponics system, we have identified a basic problem with our current iteration that must be fixed. The main problem with this current version, is that the pump moves water into the growing tubes faster than it can drain, thus resulting in an overflow of water. A solution that we are currently pursuing is to use PVC piping to split the water-flow from the pump into two streams: one running into the growing tube controlled by a valve, and the other running directly back into the reservoir. This would allow for control over how much water is distributed into the growing tube and an end to the overflow issue.
Over the weekend, the plants that we’ve removed from their potted soil have withered and died. From the symptoms, they seem to have died from nitrogen deficiency. Still, while a setback, it has shown us that we still do not know enough about taking care of plants in a purely water based environment. Now, we are writing a white paper covering the effects of salinity on plants, and the situation in the San Joaquin Valley.
Finally, we’ve transplanted the basil from their soil and into cups. They currently sit in paper cups of water with a plastic mesh to sit on. Every class session of WISRD, nutrients will be added into the cups’ water.
Now having all the pieces, we were able to finally build the basis of our hydroponics system. However, before we can actually start growing plants, we need to get properly measured tubing, a second growing tube, another water basin, and mesh growing baskets.
Having finalized the nozzle caps for the growing tubes, now comes the question of how it’s going to fit into the system. Originally, the tubes were setup at a slant so water could flow through. However, now with caps with variable nozzle heights, the slope is unnecessary; the tubes can be parallel to the ground and still have proper water flow. To support the tubes, string will be used to hang them off the PVC pipes.
While the cap was successfully printed, there were some noticeable design flaws. Firstly, while the 1.5cm tube does fit onto the nozzle, it does not fit tightly enough. Secondly, another version of the cap would have to be created with a nozzle higher than the default model to account for water flow. Both of these problems will be addressed in a redesign.
Over the weekend, I’ve successfully acquired two basil starters from the local Anawalt; hopefully we can keep these alive until the hydroponics unit is completed. In the meantime, I have started to print the first redesigned nozzle cap for our tubes.
Currently, the growing tubes have a free-flowing system to run water through. However, having a free-flowing system takes away a lot of control over how water is distributed, as well as creating the potential for spills. I have responded to this issue by designing and modeling new caps with nozzles; different pipes and tubes can be affixed to them to direct the flow of water.
Ximena and I have designed a to-do list for our Hydroponics research; it should be a great boon in coordinating our efforts with the other half of the team. It is based on start-up style to-do lists with three different columns named To-Do, Doing, and Done. Post-It notes with jobs written on them are placed into the To-Do column. When a member decides to take on a job, they will take it and move it into their assigned section under the Doing column. Once they have completed the task, they will finally move the job to the Done column.
I have decided to join the hydroponics team to assist in the design of the unit, as well as the implementation of a sensor and control system into the project.