IoT for Agriculture Hack Chat with Akiba

The bits and bytes of growing food

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 05:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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IMPORTANT!! Note the different time to accommodate Akiba's timezone!

Akiba from HackerFarm will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, May 15 at 5:00 PM PDT.

Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter!

Join Hack ChatNo matter what your feelings are about the current state of the world, you can't escape the fact that 7.7 billion humans need to be fed. That means a lot of crops to grow and harvest and a lot of animals to take care of and bring to market. And like anything else, technology can make that job easier and more productive.

To test concepts at the interface between technology and agriculture, Akiba has developed HackerFarm, a combination of homestead, hackerspace, and small farm in Japan. It's a place where hackers with agriculture-related projects can come to test ideas and collaborate with other people trying to solve the problems of a hungry world by experimenting on an approachable scale with open-source technology..

Join us this Wednesday at 5:00 PM Pacific time as we discuss:

  • Hacking and the homestead;
  • How technology fits into agriculture;
  • How technology doesn't fit into agriculture;
  • The growing digital divide between industrial ag and indie ag;
  • How farming makes use of both bleeding edge and old world technology;
  • How to grow potatoes;

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Lutetium05/16/2019 at 01:07 0 comments

    freaklabs5:43 PM
    i think data science is a huge thing for small farmers. its one of the technologies that I think is very needed

    enatalio5:43 PM
    @freaklabs > I like it! data mining baby!

    freaklabs5:43 PM
    small point of fact, data science foundations are based on farming. ANOVA was designed to analyze agriculture experiments.

    sadhana5:43 PM
    My area of research is mostly in CO² enrichment to counteract climate change. More recently Ive been curious with methane enrichment through pines

    Yves Quemener5:44 PM
    @freaklabs I can help. I wish more environmentally minded people had the data in mind.

    enatalio5:44 PM
    @freaklabs > are you creating anything like sci-kit for ag?

    matthewkleinmann5:44 PM
    I tell you, when we first moved out here, near 20 years ago now, we rarely had tick issues. Now going in the woods and picking ramps, you just pick the suckers off of you when you come back in. It is very bad.

    freaklabs5:44 PM
    but one of the thngs I'm obsessed with is teaching experimental techniques to farmers. I think it can benefit all farmers, indie or big ag. and its something most don't know how to do. Even a simple single factorial with one-way ANOVA that can be done in Excel could hugely boost productivity

    freaklabs5:45 PM
    @sadhana : not really. i'm not sure how useful machine learning is for ag at the moment. I got a suggestion that ML could help afarmer determine when to pick a cucumber

    matthewkleinmann5:45 PM
    Big ag has control over a lot more than small. They have it down to about as tight as you can get it, with chemicals and irrigation.

    freaklabs5:45 PM
    @sadhana : i had to tell the guy you don't really need to teach a farmer when he can pick a cucumber

    freaklabs5:46 PM
    @matthewkleinmann : yes, there is a big focus on optimization

    freaklabs5:47 PM
    regarding the experiments, I think the interesting thing is that each farm is different iwth different soils. So running experiments on your own farm, speficif to your growing ocnditions can help identify how to optimize for that specific farm.

    matthewkleinmann5:47 PM
    Like for us, current decisions are when to bring plant starts out from the house into the greenhouse and than when to put them outside.

    sadhana5:47 PM
    MIT has the best machine learning system Ive seen in farming

    enatalio5:47 PM
    @admin> Is the entire chat threads available later on?

    matthewkleinmann5:48 PM
    One thing we are doing this year is I build a bunch of movable containers and we are going to try and put some things back in the greenhouse near the end of the season and see how long we can eke things out of them.

    freaklabs5:48 PM
    ie: what conditions can you germiante quinoa seedlings in for specific temperatures. these can be run in aquariums iwth small heaters. Knowing the optimal temperature of quinoa could tell you approximately what date you can plant quinoa in your region/zone

    @enatalio -Absolutely. I'll copy the whole transcript and post it in the event page -

    Yves Quemener5:48 PM
    @matthewkleinmann I find it intriguing that we don't have a good database for this kind of things. There are tons of local farmers almanach, but little in terms of well formatted databases

    freaklabs5:49 PM
    @matthewkleinmann : nice. that's ag reat idea for season extension. Actually we might have to copy you on that idea. it sounds realy interesting

    enatalio5:49 PM
    @Dan Maloney > Thanks Dan!

    WRR5:49 PM
    What do you all think about hydroponic/aeroponic greenhouses? It seems like you could control the environment and nutrients more easily, but I guess they might be expensive to make and maintain?

    freaklabs5:49 PM
    sorry about the divergent threads. I only have around a four chat history on my current laptop screen

    freaklabs5:50 PM
    ha ha ha.

    Yves Quemener5:50 PM
    It is 2019, your screen resolution is crazy but you...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium05/16/2019 at 01:06 0 comments

    I think people fail to appreciate how difficult solar is to do right from a mechanical engineering standpoint. Those arrays have a HUGE wind cross section, and you need to handle the forces correctly. If you don't, people can end up dead quickly.

    freaklabs5:13 PM
    We initially started with things like soil moisture sensing. FYI, my specialty is wireles ssensor networks and I love collecting data

    nerd.king joined  the room.5:14 PM

    freaklabs5:14 PM
    What I learned from that was soil moisture is hard to measure accurately and you actually don't need that much precision. Many times you can eyeball it.

    freaklabs5:14 PM
    truthfully a lot of the sensors and IoT that companies are trying to sell to farmers aren't very useful, especially if they go out in the field.

    sadhana5:15 PM
    I think with food computers its pretty good to zero in on the right chemical balances through rigorously tested results. Its hard to know exactly whats in organic fertilizer, that can create issues with consistency.

    nerd.king5:15 PM
    Have you thought about small scale robotics? We have a lot of Beyond Organic farmers in central Virginia and I have been working with a couple to apply robotics to some of their labor intensive tasks.

    enatalio5:15 PM
    @freaklabs > What's your ultimate vision for the data?

    sadhana5:15 PM
    Dirt varies quite a bit

    freaklabs5:15 PM
    for example, soil moisture sensors that get put in the soil are almost useless. the reason is the farmer needs to be able to till the soil after the crop is harvested. that means they have to pull up all those expensive sensors before they till. it adds more labor which is a no-no to farmers who are already labor constrained

    matthewkleinmann5:15 PM
    My solar is very small. One building is 100W and the other is under that. If I need real power like when I am building I will drag a generator out. I also have my home brew CO2 powered framing nail gun.

    nerd.king5:16 PM
    Should you be targeting no till operations then?

    enatalio5:16 PM
    @freaklabs > How about a drone with infrared. No need for physical sensors.

    freaklabs5:16 PM
    @sadhana : we invited one of the guys from MIT Media Lab to give a talk on food computers. it was interesting, but the final result is he's also interested in field growing.

    matthewkleinmann5:17 PM
    @Freaklabs if you are growing things in the ground, do you have an irrigation system? If you don't what is the point of monitoring the soil moisture unless you have a means of controlling it

    @freaklabs - Doesn't that just scream for a tiller that can sample and measure the soil on the fly? And perhaps log the data along with GPS data as it works the rows?

    freaklabs5:17 PM
    @sadhana : I think soil-less and soil growing are two techniques of growing. we have no bias actualy and are experimenting with hydro as well as mist growing, and field growing

    sadhana5:17 PM
    It helps food computers to have field farming data to replicate the soil conditions, makes sense

    freaklabs5:18 PM
    @Dan Maloney : that's what the john deere tractors do, and I think that would be an interesting open source technology. We mainly owrk with indie farmers and if you look at their technology needs like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, many of them are not even on the bottom rung of hte ladder

    matthewkleinmann5:18 PM
    Again, you can measure and log but if you have no means of control it is kind of pointless, IMHO.

    Jim Tittsler joined  the room.5:18 PM

    freaklabs5:19 PM
    From working with indie farmers, although its nice to have technology for automation, they actually need technology to generate revenue. basically many of them need help with basic business principles like marketing

    matthewkleinmann5:19 PM
    If you can afford anything green and yellow you are not here (smile)

    freaklabs5:20 PM
    we run python workshops and arduino workshops, but the most popular are media arts, ie: photoshop and video editing...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium05/16/2019 at 01:04 0 comments

    freaklabs4:21 PM
    I was trying to prepare things to post, but then couldn't exactly figure out the audience. I mainly talk to indie and organic farmers to my slides are less tech-dense. But I expect that people in this chat will be very tech-focused

    freaklabs4:22 PM
    I think it will be interesting because you can go both ways very easily in agriculture. super tech-averse (eg permaculture, holistic) and then super tech (drones, machine learning to identify cucumbers)

    You'd be surprised. I've found that there's a good amount of crossover to the ag world from tech types. Kinda like how a lot of hackers are also musicians.

    freaklabs4:25 PM
    Yeah. Actually we get a lot of residency requests at hackerfarm from tech people. I feel like tech people spend so much time in their head and they need an outlet with physical labor and connection to nature.

    Interested in your take on permaculture and tech. Have you found the permies to be tech-averse? I just love permaculture, specifically because it tickles my tech side. We can leave this to the Chat, of course.

    Arsenijs4:25 PM
    well then, seems like you knew your audience all along =)

    Exactly! My garden was always my retreat from working at home - head out and water or weed for a couple of minutes to recharge

    freaklabs4:26 PM
    it will proably come up again. but yeah, I'd say most permaculture people I've met are more on the tech-averse side. I think there's a bit of offensiveness in having electronics in an area they are trying to make holistic and naturally viable

    freaklabs4:27 PM
    bunnie huang does regular residencies out here. when he comes, he mainly just asks for the most brute force manual labor where he doesn't have to think

    freaklabs4:27 PM
    we're generally happy to oblige. but i can also understand.

    freaklabs4:28 PM
    what kinds of things are you all working on

    I guess I see the point of keeping the silicon out of a sustainable system. But then again, what hacker would groove on solving problems with gravity to move water over the landscape, or getting the mix of plants and animals to do the work for you?

    freaklabs4:31 PM
    i agree. actually we do know some permies that are curious about how tech can integrate into natural systems. we're working on solar powered devices and using natural materials like bamboo as enclosures so the electronics and tech are more or less hidden. Projects like that are generally focused on water (ie: solar pumping to higher ground for harvested rainwater gravity irrigation system) or non-threatening wildlife deterrence

    freaklabs4:33 PM
    It's also interesting since agriculture got us involved in the larger water management technology for orgs like World Bank and wildlife conservation technology. Kind of unexpected offshoots...

    sean joined  the room.4:33 PM

    I'm working on something like that now. Just bought 23 acres of raw land, need to start managing it. Water is on the lowest part of the lot, so I need to find a way to harvest it and bring it up to livestock ponds. We're planning on grazing cattle there.

    freaklabs4:34 PM
    Oh damn! 23 acres. Ha ha ha. That's going to be fun.

    Needs to be a hands-off thing since it's an hour drive away, so I need to put in remote monitoring to help me manage it.

    Jared joined  the room.4:35 PM

    freaklabs4:35 PM
    Grazing animals are the way to go to keep the grass and weeds under control. We keep getting offers to have goats, but we're worried that if they get off the properties, they'll eat up all our neighbors farm plots

    freaklabs4:37 PM
    there are a lot of interesting designs for rainwater harvesting. The simplest are usually some poles and a tarp. Depending on your location, you can harvest a lot of water. Our rain barrels are almost always full which is kind of sad since it means we should add more capacity.

    Goats are like that. We're looking to rent out grazing to a small herd of longhorns. Pretty docile and...

    Read more »

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dossgenny007 wrote 05/15/2019 at 04:48 point

IOT is such a part of the technology which involves in any of the field in the world. Just like that this is also one. You can also go through for more information.

  Are you sure? yes | no

John Reade wrote 05/08/2019 at 16:53 point

Please take a look at this team drone challenge:

We would like input from people like you on how we can design farming challenges that can be solved with a drone. Thank you!

  Are you sure? yes | no

freaklabs wrote 05/13/2019 at 01:20 point

Sure. Lots of applications of drones for imaging on farms, with a lot of emphasis being on near infrared imaging. There' more info here:
To be honest, I don't know any farms in Japan or elsewhere that we've worked with using drones for imaging though. Many drone companies are creating large payload drones for spraying fields. 

We work mainly with indie farmers and most of the time, they don't have a lot of experience with deep IT, although they can often navigate a computer. Rather than working with them on complex or expensive technology (most indie farmers are financially constrained), we try to do things using available technology they might already have or low cost, open source technologies. We also have found that there needs to be a balance between cost cutting (ie: higher efficiencies or labor savings through automation) and growing revenue (marketing, branding, business development, ie: supplying restaurants directly). 

Can discuss this more during the chat. Looking forward to talking to all of you :)


  Are you sure? yes | no

Dan Maloney wrote 05/13/2019 at 15:25 point

Interesting, I hadn't thought of the supply chain as being a target for tech that would improve the lot of small growers. Makes perfect sense though - smooth out the process of bringing your stuff to market, find markets in the first place, and keep track of how much you grow versus how much you sell. All really good points where automation can contribute.

Guess the point is that not every IoT project, for farms or anywhere else, needs to be "sexy" like drones and autonomous vehicles. Just getting the right data to the right place in time to make decisions is often the most impactful tech someone can have.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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