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Plant pod

Modular plant grow module

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Intro

One of the top environmental problems is food and water Insecurity. 

Rising temperatures and unsustainable farming practices has resulted in the increasing threat of water and food insecurity. 

Globally, more than 68 billion tons of top-soil is eroded every year at a rate 100 times faster than it can naturally be replenished. Laden with biocides and fertilizer, the soil ends up in waterways where it contaminates drinking water and protected areas downstream. 

Furthermore, exposed and lifeless soil is more vulnerable to wind and water erosion due to lack of root and mycelium systems that hold it together.

With the global population expected to reach 9 billion people by mid-century, the FAO projects that global food demand may increase by 70% by 2050.

If we also include industry needed to support current food production, including farming, packaging, transport, storage etc. all of these elements contribute to the list of the top environmental problems, including:

  • Food waste
  • Plastic pollution
  • Air pollution

Vertical farming

Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers. 

It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. 

Current applications of vertical farming coupled with other technologies,  have resulted in over 10 times the crop yield than would receive through traditional farming methods. 

The main advantage of utilizing vertical farming technologies is the increased crop yield that comes with a smaller unit area of land requirement. The increased ability to cultivate a larger variety of plants at once because plants do not share the same soil. Additionally, plants are resistant to weather disruptions because of their indoor placement.

The main disadvantage is cost of setting up a vertical farm, application and space specific implementations, system rigidity, and no modularity. Vertical farms also face large energy demands due to the use of supplementary light like LEDs.

Plant pod

Main goal of the Plant pod is to provide low cost, scalable, modular and flexible solution for vertical farming. Plant pod device is designed to be plant per module system, capable of fast and flexible implementation, independent of chosen soilless farming techniques, and even allow mixing of these, depending on the specific plant, or rather group of plants.

This kind of solution can provide fast farming setups, that are flexible both in the sense of ability to physically move, and Indoor space positioning, like layers, plant orientation etc.

Each Plant pod device is modular and can be customized for specific type of plant, like height of the device, number of active liquid inlets/outlets, air flow, size, shape and type of the net cup.

System needs to scale well, depending on the food demand, it can be configured like a small to medium in store solution, or per building solution, micro hub etc. Or it can be a large scale operation, that might replace farmers market in the city center.

Plant pod is designed to be as simple a possible, and use as many of the shelf components, to maintain low production cost. Materials used for the main body are mostly plastic, so all other components are designed in such a way that it can be replaced, and by so, prolongate the devices life cycle. 3D printing main body is also an option.

Device has three main parts, lower body, upper body and middle section. 

Lower body houses main logic board, liquid and electrical connections. 

There are total of six liquid connections, to enable the supply of:

  • Water
  • Ph+
  • Ph-
  • Nutrient A
  • Nutrient B
  • Nutrient C

Depending on the chosen farming technique, device can be configured to use variable number of liquid connections. Flow of liquid  components is controlled by using integrated solenoid pumps, fixed amount of liquid is taken...

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  • Liquid level sensing concept

    Nikola Secerovskia day ago 0 comments

    More details coming soon, here are some images

  • New design and some parts

    Nikola Secerovski04/27/2021 at 12:59 0 comments

  • New valve concept [Code name uterus]

    Nikola Secerovski04/17/2021 at 10:19 0 comments

    Testing of the first iteration of the valve design is over. It does not work as expected, downsides are:

    - Tight tolerances on the parts

    - Additional metal treatment like hard chroming or chemical nickel plating  

    - High current solenoid coil

    - Low wear resistance

    - Large part count

    Old design

    So, here is the new valve concept, we started from the beginning, and the first thing that we did was to separate valve from the lower body of the plant pod. New design has lower part count, improved resistance to wear, no tight tolerance parts, it can be 3D printed, and it uses plastic plunger with ring magnets.

    New design

  • Mr. Potato meats the toilet seat

    Nikola Secerovski04/09/2021 at 08:26 0 comments

    As the title says, current design looks like a Mr. Potato wearing toilet seat as a hat, so we decided to change it. This is the new concept design of the Plant pod. We will post more details soon.

  • Parts!

    Nikola Secerovski04/08/2021 at 14:36 0 comments

    Here are some parts

  • Air IO valve

    Nikola Secerovski03/27/2021 at 11:18 0 comments

    This is the current stage of the air IO valve component, here are some images:

    Working part of the air IO valve assembly consists of 3010 (30mmx30mmx10mm) fan, small motor with planetary gearbox, that drives the rack of the valve disc, hall effect sensor, that in combination with the magnetic disk on the end of the motor shaft creates an encoder, used to position valve disk, and small limit switch in the top of the rack sliding slot (To be able to determine valves disk top position). Air IO valves are connected to the top part of the plant pod using pogo pins, and uses I2C protocol to communicate with the rest of the system. These valves are optional, and device can be used with or without them, or in some other configuration (Ono valve, one heater etc.)

  • Air inlet/outlet valve concept (VOTE)

    Nikola Secerovski03/20/2021 at 14:13 2 comments

    Here are some of the air inlet/outlet design concepts, help us to choose wisely...

    1. Vader

    2. Eve

    3. Bee hive 

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  • First 3D printed parts for Solenoid Pump

    Mihailo Stefanovic03/18/2021 at 16:42 0 comments

    We have started with first 3D prints for prototype of our Solenoid Pump. Currently in this stage of build we are using PLA filament because print time is a lot shorter, so we can save some time till we have completely functional prototype of pump. In future we will probably use PET-G filament since it's more resistant to higher temperature and mechanical stress.

  • Solenoid pump POC

    Nikola Secerovski03/14/2021 at 13:26 0 comments

    One of the critical components of the Plant pod device design is integrated solenoid pump. Before starting manufacturing of any of the base components, we need to be sure that this pump design will work correctly. This is a proof of concept and test rig at the same time. We need a tool to test different spring and coil combinations. Pump's main body and piston will be machined parts, due to the tight tolerances, rest of the system will be 3D printed parts, and some "of the shelf" hardware, like nuts, bolts, springs etc. Here are some images.

  • Quick release

    Nikola Secerovski03/12/2021 at 12:19 0 comments

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Discussions

Nikola Secerovski wrote 04/08/2021 at 18:17 point

The common mixing tank would mean that all the plants in line share the same nutritional mix, and we wanted to avoid that. Glass bulb sensors are not an option, we are considering some kind of the solid state solutions, like ISFET or solid state carbon electrode array sensors. Solid state sensors are quite reliable and robust. ISFET sensors have a downside, they are sensitive to light, so that implementation would require some kind of light isolation, like bell siphon or something similar...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Morberis wrote 04/08/2021 at 16:34 point

What do you have for a robust PH sensor? Cheap ones seem to need a lot of maintenance and to be replaced quite often. Based on the cost for my own projects it seemed like it would be more cost efficient to go with something able to measure PH for a whole system with a mixing tank that then delivers to plants.

So I'm wondering how you managed to make it workable.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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