Parts of the plant throughput system can be automated. The system broken down into the following components:
1. Seed bin with optional agitator
2. Sprout conveyor
3. Sprout slide
4. Vegetative growth conveyor
5. End of the line root scraper
The conveyor to move the plant matter should be staged to provide the longest possible run, allowing the plants to mature. A small conveyor can move the seed and small sprouts until they become too rooty (is that a word?) at which point they are transfered to the main vegetative growth conveyor. The seeds we will be using take from 3 to 7 days to sprout, so if we can extend the growth time by stacking a sprout conveyor above the veg conveyor it makes sense to do so.
1. Seed bin - The seed bin is a trapezoidal funnel that drops seed on the sprout conveyor at a predetermined rate. Rate is set by the distance of the bin bottom from the sprout conveyor and can be modified or ensured by a small amount of agitation at the opening. This agitation speed is controlled by adjusting manually or electronically the speed of the motor which drives it.
2. Sprout conveyor - This conveyor system runs at a speed that will supply the vegetative growth conveyor with enough sprouts for the desired yield. This rate of conveyance is set by adjusting manually or electronically the speed and frequency of the motor operation. The motor may be activated at intervals rather than at an extremely slow rate.
3. Sprout slide - A declining platform to transfer the sprouts from the end of the sprout conveyor to the start of the vegetative conveyor. It may be necessary to aid this transition with short bursts or a sustained trickle of water on the face of the slide. If the water slide is necessary, the supply of water can be preset with valves or bursts activated by electronic means.
4. Vegetative growth conveyor - This system moves the seedlings through to harvest stages of development. It will be setup and controlled much the same as the sprout conveyor. Perpendicular to the direction of travel and underneath the conveyor will be scrapers to prevent the roots from entangling the mechanisms and damaging the conveyor. These roots will be deflected into the fish tanks as a food source.
5. End of the line scraper - The scraper will be a blade or other edge that cuts the roots of the mature plants that may have wandered through the conveyor. This provides the separation needed to remove the plants from the system for drying or harvesting. In the future, an automated harvester may be implemented at the end of the line.