Automated Hydroponics System
Hydroponics is a unique agricultural technique which allows to crops grow in water, as apposed to soil. Crops are fed nutrient filled water, and grown in an organic growth medium.
Usually, pH and nutrient levels of the water are controlled manually, as industrial automated systems are very expensive. Our team set out to design and build a low cost automated hydroponic system which could be used in our university cafeteria.
The hydroponic technique we decided to use is called Nutrient Film Technique (NFT). This technique includes a channel in which the crops are planted, and a small film of water trickling over the roots of the crops. The advantage of using an NFT system allows for the water reservoir to be localized, thus making it easier for us to build our system.
In order to automate this hydroponic system, there are key metrics which need to be tracked so the growth of plants can be closely monitored. The 2 most important metrics are: pH levels, and nutrient concentration. If the pH levels are out of range, this can cause the water to burn the plants' roots. Maintaining nutrient concentration levels ensures that the crops have enough "food" to flourish.
The sensors purchased are compatible with an Arduino.
Our team whiteboarded the hydroponic process, sketched some concepts for the final system, and set up a prototype.
Our team also competed in a socially focussed Startup Weekend with our hydroponic system in October of 2016. With the recent displacement of Syrians from their homes into camps, we thought hydroponics might be an effective solution to the food issue that comes along with living in refugee camps. Our solution was to have a 1-for-1 business model, where every hydroponic system that we intend to sell to a local restaurant would fund another hydroponic system which would be sent to a refugee camp.