Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

A event log for IoT for Agriculture Hack Chat with Akiba

The bits and bytes of growing food

LutetiumLutetium 05/16/2019 at 01:040 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 not interested in wandering. Looking forward to their brush-clearing skills as well as their poop.

Chris Gammell4:38 PM
hey Akiba!

freaklabs4:38 PM
yeah, that's a great way to prep the land for farming. what are your plans for the lot? mainly cattle grazing or subdividing it into plots too?

freaklabs4:38 PM
Hi Chris!

freaklabs4:38 PM
Oh, Amp-Hour in the house!

Benjamin Blundell joined  the room.4:39 PM

Chris Gammell4:41 PM
looking forward to hearing about how the ag stuff is going

Chris Gammell4:41 PM
have been following some of your updates

Chris Gammell4:41 PM
but I have all but abandoned FB, so less so than before

freaklabs4:42 PM
I'm still on a learners journey. The farmers around me are like 80 years old and know all the old world tricks of doing things. But things I grow are dying less now so pretty happy :)

freaklabs4:42 PM
Chris: How are things going with you?

freaklabs4:46 PM
Dan: We recently rented a house on it's own mountain and it comes with ~25 acres of forested land. We're frantically studying forest management now and are looking into taking arborist, tree-climbing, and chainsaw workshops.

Chris Gammell4:47 PM
going really well! Have been doing a couple of remote monitoring projects for consulting, have really enjoyed the new lifestyle of bouncing between projects

Chris Gammell4:47 PM
Also KiCon was a lot of fun, I'm still on a high from that :-)

freaklabs4:47 PM
Dan: So I feel you when you say you have 23 acres of remote land.

freaklabs4:48 PM
Chris: KiCAD seems to have come a long way. it's quite impressive now

freaklabs4:50 PM
Chris: Did you give a talk at KiCon?

enatalio joined  the room.4:50 PM

Jeff joined  the room.4:50 PM

@freaklabs - the 23 acres will probably just stay as raw as possible. Lots of trees, some pasture, so we'll work on a forestry plan to maximize the timber value 20-30 years down the road. My kids can then do a timber sale and reap the benefits. Until then, spring and summer grazing, fall hunting.

Chris Gammell4:52 PM
Just the opening talk and moderating panels. That was enough

freaklabs4:54 PM
Dan: Nice plan. Just having a retreat is an awesome thing to look forward to. But I suspect it will slowly draw you in. I can see your inner homesteader already ;)

enatalio4:54 PM
Hello, freaklabs and everyone. Any recommendations on how best to find ag land? That you've experienced is the best way?

matthewkleinmann joined  the room.4:54 PM

freaklabs4:54 PM
Dan: the warning signs are: 1) plans for a cabin 2) a sudden interest in soapmaking 3) food sustainability

enatalio4:55 PM
I'm actively looking but places are too far away to see it and "walk it."

sadhana4:55 PM
Hey its been a while hack chat. Still working on my aeroponic farm which has become quite the crazy food computer. Project page needs a gigantic update from everything I've learned since working as an electrical engineer at a vertical hydroponic farm and my recent move to a grow controls automation company.

freaklabs4:55 PM
@enatalio : in Japan, it's through local connections. depending on where you are, it could be easy or hard to find land. if you live in an urban area, you might need to look at rooftops or vacant lots. In general you can do raised beds, in those places and grow lots of things.

freaklabs4:56 PM
In rural areas, depends on how much empty land is around

Phew! No soapmaking plans yet. But I do collect wood ashes...

matthewkleinmann4:56 PM
You need a back wods rig. I have a 4x4 4 wheeler that fits in a trailer that I can pull with my truck but the trailer can also be pulled with the quad.

freaklabs4:56 PM
Dan:'ve already been bitten

enatalio4:57 PM
So i'm in central Texas. Lots of land but incredibly expensive.

freaklabs4:57 PM
@enatalio : if that's the case, talk to people about growing on their land and giving them a portion of the harvest. especially if they are just using it for lawns or they are unkept.

matthewkleinmann4:57 PM
I have a few buckets of ashes too. I made some not so strong lye a few years back. We have a cow processor around the corner so I can get as much fat as I want.

I would totally rent out plots on my land to anyone who wanted to farm it.

matthewkleinmann4:58 PM
One thing to look into Re: land is forest farming. Keeping at least some of it natural.

freaklabs4:58 PM
@enatalio a lot of market farmers I talk to in urban areas go this route. they have to maintain the aesthetics of small plots, but the owners generally like all the interest that having organic vegetables in their front yard generates

freaklabs4:59 PM
@matthewkleinmann : oh, regular source of tallow....nice! jealousy....

freaklabs4:59 PM
@matthewkleinmann : also things I wouldn't have said 5 years ago...

sadhana4:59 PM
Forest farming isnt bad for mushrooms since many barks facilitate inoculation

enatalio4:59 PM
@freaklabs > Looking into leasing but too many variables. great suggestions though

matthewkleinmann4:59 PM
We grow mushrooms under the canopy of the woods out back... Others grow ginseng. We have fields and pasture too.. But we keep some land wooded.

Welcome everyone! Even though we've been chatting for a least a half hour now, I'll make it official and kick things off with the IoT and Agriculture Hack Chat. A big welcome to Akiba @freaklabs and a thanks for accommodating us from Japan today.

freaklabs5:00 PM
@sadhana @matthewkleinmann we are keeping the land near the house as farmland. there is also an orchard, but the larger mountain is forest so we'll be starting to re-maintain the hiking trails and manage the forest actively

@freaklabs - Care to give us a little background on yourself?

freaklabs5:00 PM
Hi Dan and thanks for having me. Also having fun chatting already :)

matthewkleinmann5:01 PM
BTW, a few years ago I built a spiral pump to irrigate the Shataiki logs. Easier than putting them in the water...

freaklabs5:01 PM
Yeah, around 6 years ago, me and some friends started hackerfarm on a whim.

freaklabs5:01 PM
It was one of those things like: "wouldnt it be cool if....". little did I know what I was in for.

sadhana5:01 PM
Ive been thinking of making mushroom cultivation systems since mushrooms have decriminalized here in Colorado, my main interest is domesticating some of the pricier gormet mushrooms

matthewkleinmann5:02 PM
Shataiki 's are what you probably want.

freaklabs5:02 PM
First three years, we were having trouble finding a focus. were we a hackerspace? a farm? tech focused, education focused, farm focused?

Wait - mushroom cultivation was a crime?

sadhana5:02 PM
Chanterelles are what Ive had my sights on

sadhana5:02 PM
Psycilocibin Dan

freaklabs5:02 PM
Last two years, decided to focus on agriculture and how technology fits into agriculture. Surprisingly, most indie ag operations need basic technology but not hte advanced ones you see in the press

Honestly, I think family farms were the original hackerspaces in a lot of ways. At least in the US, and through the 1950s or so

matthewkleinmann5:03 PM
Psilocybin mushroom cultivation is.

Ah - shrooms, not mushrooms

freaklabs5:03 PM
And we went from one residency house initially to two houses, two cafes, two greenhouses, and six farm plots

enatalio5:03 PM
@freaklabs > Can you give some examples of the simple ones?

freaklabs5:04 PM
so now we spend a lot of time on logistics, operations, maintenance of the places, as well as the farming. we're starting to take in residencies from next year, although we are experimenting with it with friends from this year

sadhana5:04 PM
Freaklabs have shipping container hydro farms seen much success in Japan?

freaklabs5:04 PM
@sadhana not really. there is a lot of interest in soil-less techniques in tokyo, mainly because it's really hard to get soil there

enatalio5:05 PM
@freaklabs > Why is soil tough to get?

freaklabs5:05 PM
Also, my background is originally in chip and FPGA design. Also do electronics hardware and firmware programming. getting deeper into python since it's such a fun language

freaklabs5:06 PM
@enatalio : in tokyo, you have to buy it and since most poeple don't have cars, you have to lug a 15 kg bag of soil on to the trains and subways. it's not pretty.

@freaklabs I was actually surprised to see how comfortingly rural your area is. Not at all what I pictured Japan to be like.

freaklabs5:06 PM
@enatalio : also, 15 kg of soil doesn't get you very far.

matthewkleinmann5:06 PM
I have pondered trying an aquaponic setup. We have a lot of fish in our pond. One of my pals was so bummed when I would not let him dump algicide and dye in it a few years back. We have one of those aeration windmills for it and that keeps it healthy.

sadhana5:06 PM
Lol you can barely get on the subways as it is

freaklabs5:07 PM
@Dan Maloney : yes, its interesting. we're only 1.5 hours outside of Tokyo but population drops off like crazy. Where we are, its rapidly depopulating since Tokyo sucks all the young people up like a magnet

matthewkleinmann5:07 PM
If you have tried aquaponics, what did you use for the physical growing medium?

freaklabs5:07 PM
@sadhana : yeah. you get a lot of mean stares if you're lugging a 15 kg sack of soil. don't even think about buying cow poop...ha ha ha

sadhana5:08 PM
Ive had this batshit idea of batponics, feeding fruit bats produce in exchange for guano which makes more produce. seems like a bacterial nightmare though.

Esteban Berná joined  the room.5:08 PM

freaklabs5:08 PM
@matthewkleinmann : one of the guys here specializes in hydro and aqua techniques. You basically use same mediums as hydro but have to choose the fish and fish food

freaklabs5:09 PM
We also talked to fish farms who interestingly enough, have a problem disposing of their waste water. Problem is it's too rich in nitrogen from all the fish waste so they can't dump it.

freaklabs5:09 PM
But that stuff is like gold to a farmer...

matthewkleinmann5:09 PM
I was pondering just using pond water and a swirl and skimmer filter. Use an inexpensive bilge pump and either solar or finish off the vertical windmill to power the water transfer..

freaklabs5:10 PM
@sadhana : It's actually a good idea. guano is supposed to be a great source of nitrogen. regarding bacterial issues, its the same with all poop. needs to be composted properly and for a specific amount of time.

freaklabs5:10 PM
@sadhana: human waste needs at least 6 months of composting to remove dangerous bacteria

sadhana5:10 PM
What i learned from working at a vertical hydro farm was that aquaponics is hard to consider organic or foodsafe due to the varying degrees of nutrient quality made from fish waste

Might it not be too hot? I know I have to let my chicken poop mellow a while before using it.

freaklabs5:11 PM
@Dan Maloney : I like using chicken poop but can't take it directly fro the farms. it will burn the plants since the nitrogen levels are too high

sadhana5:11 PM
In some ways its better to carefully control your nutrients to produce cleaner than organic phenotypes

matthewkleinmann5:11 PM
Power is a big issue for a lot of things. I have solar in a few of my "outposts" and I built the main part of a vertical mill. Only I am having a hell of a time digging the post hole for it. Digging in spoil from the pond and the pond hit bedrock at about 4 feet. They had fun chipping through that, but the spoil is hard to dig in.

matthewkleinmann5:12 PM
Chicken crap is best aged a year or more before you spread it. It is very hot right from the bird.

freaklabs5:12 PM
@sadhana : actually I think its better not to control the nutrients too tightly. a lot of the food we eat these days are using chemical fertilizers. but natural compost have trace minerals that plants and humans need. those trace minerals go into the vegetables and into our bodies as we eat them. its hard to duplicate this process using chemical fertilzers which just specialise in nitrogen, phosphorus, and postassium

sean5:13 PM
@freaklabs What are some examples of technology assisted/driven endevours you've implemented in the farms?