Ufarm Robotix

Urban Farm Automated Robotic Management
$1 million per year in less than 500 sq ft of production

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Hackaday Prize Entry Video

UFARM is a fully scalable automated precision farming robotic system. By automating processes such as feeding, watering, heat and light, we take the guess work out of what plants require for healthy growth. With text and email alerts, it is easier to be notified to prevent problems before they cost time and resources. These combine to help ensure consistent healthy yields with little to no previous farming or gardening experience. Greater success rates lead to greater retention of first time producers.

General Concept of UFARM

UFARM is an app and complete set of tools to lower the physical and economic barriers to farming and gardening. Automating the feeding, watering, and environmental control we ease the process of successful plant growth. At the same time we can log data of production and costs. The accumulated data will aid the entire sector of urban and intensive farming by providing a clear picture of profits, costs, and use of resources to gain loans and investment for growth.

Microcomputers, such as the RaspberryPi, monitor, control, and route systems and data automatically through a network of sensors and nodes. Data is accumulated over a period of time. Users can then access and utilize the information through an app and web portal for scientific and economic purposes.

It is related to my robotics and farming work that I have been involved with separately. for the last decade. I have lead aerial robotic technologies and embedded systems research for the last several years. In the meantime, I have moved my family off grid almost five years ago. While growing our own food, we teach about creating local production and distribution systems in food deserts around my community and throughout the country.

We will be improving automation and robots through faster processors, superior code and integrated design. What separates UFARM is the accumulation and use of data to identify and quantify trends and correlations. Without this body of data, accessible financing will continue to elude the local farm movement. I have watched too many good people and good ideas go unfinanced because of this lack of empirical research. Like any other startup farming requires adequate front end financing to succeed. Without access to these resources, our food system and the crisis of child poverty will slip into further decay.

UFARM is a positive step to food security and accessibility. Improving access to production research, lowering the barrier to successful production, and quantifying clear reductions in costs and resources will provide a foundation for future farmers and producers to grow.

v2 double light clip.stl

This is a light clip for fluorescent grow light fixture.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 449.50 kB - 05/23/2016 at 21:47


  • 1 × Arduino Uno
  • 1 × Arduino Nano
  • 1 × Arduino Pro Micro
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi 3
  • 1 × Element 14 7 inch Raspberry Pi Touch Screen

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  • The One Week Crop

    tlankford0105/31/2016 at 15:17 0 comments

    Most crops take a anywhere from several weeks to several months to reach maturity. Conventional farming requires vigilance everyday because even a few hours of mismanagement can wipe out the entire seasons production. With a one week crop, if we have failure this week we are can start all over next week and be successful in a week. The crop that I am talking about is sprouts. There are many varieties but we are going to concentrate on one for the purpose of our project.

    Blackoil Sunflower Seed seems to be a good inexpensive hearty variety that we have been using for several years. It has to be purchased in the fall and winter because summer stores have been in the heat and have a lot of dead seed. This variety is largely used in wild bird seed. What makes sunflower sprouts so good to us is that they are packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. Sprouts are young and full of life energy that makes them especially healthy for you and I to consume. They are 25% protein which make them supper for vegetarians as well.

  • The Maths

    tlankford0105/25/2016 at 10:15 0 comments

    We make a bold claim in the title of this project, "$1000000 per year in production in less than 500 sq ft. I am going to break down the math and show that at about 70% efficiency these numbers are possible with mid to high value crops. We are going to base these numbers off of sunflower sprouts but there are higher value sprouts and herbs, such as, basil, broccoli or watercress.

    1 tray = 10 inch x 20 inch = 200 inch = .694 square feet

    720.6 trays = 500 square feet

    12 oz per tray yield x 1500 trays per week = 18000 oz

    18000oz @ $1.00 per ounce wholesale = $18000 per week.

    18000 per week x 52 weeks = $936,000 for a single years production

  • 3d Printing, Rapid Prototyping and Farm Robotics

    tlankford0105/24/2016 at 07:29 0 comments

    This log will be a repository and notes for 3Dprinted parts that I have designed for use in the prototyping and even early small run production for the UFARM Robotics Project.

    Grow Light Hanging Clip

    The grow light hanging clip was necessary to provide a bracket that could mount both light fixtures and utilize the carabiner for suspension. The specific fixture is 42 mm x 30 mm in the cross section for mounting. I am moving to LED's as the project progresses so I will not be remixing for other T-8 fixtures.

  • Data Analytics: Making Micro-Farming Possible

    tlankford0105/24/2016 at 07:24 0 comments

    "The difference between science and messing around is writing it down." - Adam Savage

    Microfarming has been the realm of the back yard gardener, small family production and hobbyists around the world. It has never been a viable economic vehicle and many have failed to attract the marketing and investment required to expand to a large enough operation to sustain a living. Ufarm Robotix aims to change this by making microfarming the central vehicle for production as we move our food system into the 21st Century. Having robots do the work is great but knowing the work they need to do makes them efficient and cost effective. This can not be achieved without comprehensive data gathering, storage and analysis. Ufarm uses persistent data harvesting to constantly improve costs and resource efficiency.

    The first part of the system is the grow space. We use grow tents, containers and hoop houses. We will discuss these options and howto set them up in future post. The sensor arrays monitor the vitals for the plants and the environment in the growspace. There are actuation nodes that will activate air, water, light and such as needed. The producer will be able to see a real time picture of the farm. A full time internet connection ensures that you are up to date and successful regardless of your experience.

    Community Data Vs. Big Data: Companies are already using data against consumers in many ways. A prime example is that seed companies sell rapeseed at a much higher rate to farmers in Illinois than they do in Texas. In Texas, costs more to produce for smaller yields. So the farmers in Illinois are punished for growing higher yields. They are forced to give more of their margin to the seed company. With UFARM we are building community data. The data will always be accessible to everyone on the network. The vital growth and consumption data is graphed charted and shared to all so that each producer can use it to maximize there yields while lowering their costs.

    Building the body of data will place microfarming on equal footing with large agribusiness. When the data is provided that shows that higher yields can be produced in a smaller space at a lower cost, banks and investors will no longer be able to ignore the profits. Accessible financing of microfarms will lead to great acceptance and restore the diversity in consumer choice for food.

  • Credits and Bibliography

    tlankford0105/24/2016 at 02:49 0 comments

    We are going to use this log to credit all those that have helped with this project directly and indirecty. We will end with our own source code for many things but others we will not try to reinvent the wheel. The code for databases, apps, and UFARM control directly will also be open source. It is our belief that food is a right and as such we want to spread our knowledge of healthy food production systems. If the guy who cured polio would have wanted a patent, we would still be fighting that horrible disease. Hunger affects far too many in the world to keep food secret.

    Ratchet Paracord Hanger

    The Ratchet Paracord Hanger is a great design that we use throughout our shop. We are currently using a set in the UFARM project to suspend a set of grow lights in our test tent. The credit for this design goes to [trebhill] who created this great tool back in 2012!!

    After quite a bit of research we have decided to build using openhab. There has been extensive work and projects for home and garden automation and that has led to a variety of products that are hardware and software specific that it leads to scattered systems that lack a central control. Thanks to the work of the openhab community they have created a central method of control of over 150 current products and diy categories to bring a central standard for the end user. We think this platform agnostic approach can lead to wider integration with current and future smart house and office systems. UFARM seperates itself from the other systems by our approach and deployment of data management systems not the automation itself.

  • UFARM Robotix: From the Desert Southwest to Mars

    tlankford0105/23/2016 at 22:08 0 comments

    MIcro-farming is the future of feeding ourselves. What is micro-farming? I define micro-farming as any farm production facility that is less than 2 acres. More on that later, as we are focusing on production systems that can fit in an apartment to a typical residential backyard lot without disruption to the community at large.

    As resources become scarce and profit margins squeezed we have to find healthy and productive ways to continue to feed ourselves. Many people have worked on individual systems and some have ventured into production scale but little has been done on large scale community data analysis. Big Ag has been collecting data for decades but it is used against the consumer instead of for them. It is used against the farmers and producers instead of increasing their profit margins.

    UFARM returns the power of data back to the farmer, back to the livestock producer, and back to the retail consumer as well. As soil is depleted and climates become less predictable we are going to have to find a more stable form of food production. This will also be relevant as we seek to expand human exploration of space. Food will have to be produced on a large scale in limited controlled space as we seek to send expeditions to the moon for long term residency as well as future expeditions to Mars and beyond.

    UFARM seeks to differentiate itself from other attempts at gardening and farming automation, by relying on data and an open community to maintain innovation. We will also differentiate ourselves in having the ability to produce $1000000 worth of produce in 500 square feet of production and processing space. Please stay tuned to our project as we compete in the 2016 Hackaday Prize!!!

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tlankford01 wrote 05/26/2016 at 06:13 point

That is interesting.  I was trying to visualize the linear space that you be needed for creating this as we have replicated this in greenhouses as little as 20 x 25.  What would be the argument for calculating in cubic feet in comparison to floor space and just assuming additional space for human traffic and maneuvering?  Thank you for your input and interest.

  Are you sure? yes | no

tfolbrecht wrote 05/25/2016 at 23:47 point

You should do your value calculations in cubic feet instead of square feet

  Are you sure? yes | no

tfolbrecht wrote 05/25/2016 at 23:47 point

You should do your value calculations in cubic feet instead of square feet

  Are you sure? yes | no

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