Licencing and IP
All codes/scripts are hosted at: www.MichaelRatcliffe.com/projects
[Will be updated before the 22/9/2015]
Everything is released as Copy Left, For more info:
about me: Graduated with a Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Electrical Engineering currently finishing my gap year and taking some time to design an automated greenhouse and small allotment type garden to provide a yearlong hassle free supply of food and a test bed for novel nutrient sourcing Aquaponics grow system.
Want to see the test bed setup that is used to test most of these techniques:
The HAD Competition
Build Something that matters
This project addresses how technology and creative thinking can be used to create better Food Security, Reduce Water Pollution and optimise Energy usage.
In this Project there is a lot of complimentary information to support the projects, to make seeing the Electronic portions of the projects, the link are followed by:
Completed Electronics Projects are Marked [C]
Projects with Expected Update are Marked [P]
Complimentary Information is Marked [I]
Just Want to see the cool Projects: Skip to Making Better Use or Plugging Leaks
Problem: World hunger
Learning how to farm from your father as he did with your grandfather is no longer going to cut it, the world is changing, the demand is increasing and the methods are staying firmly the same, the number of people on the verge of starvation and suffering malnutrition is climbing and climbing fast.
So who will solve the problem, the government, me, you? We need modern solutions to modern problems, step in a hacker. A hacker see’s a problem differently than the average person,where many see waste they will see opportunity. The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.
So what is a hacker’s solution to world hunger, take something that is free and use it to solve a problem. See it as a computer code/ flow chart, what are the inputs, outputs and leakages in the food supply? Plug the leaks, find alternative inputs and find a use for the waste.
I have seen world hunger first hand in Africa and China, The poor people in these countries are seeing a problem that we in the west have not seen yet [But it is coming and approaching fast] starvation. So I took a little time to see what the problem was, surprisingly they had access to large volumes of water, they had sunlight the limiting factor was poor nutrient sources and soil. Hmm I have been growing with Aquaponics for years now, problem solved?
Maybe not, in Aquaponics the food to feed the fish is relatively expensive for a person surviving on two dollars a day. We need to be a bit more creative to solve this solution.
Making Better Use
The First thing we can look at is how technology, particularity automation and control can improve the productivity of farms [Fish farm for this project] using traditional food sources.
Fish Feeders of the Future
This was the Product submitted to the Best Product Challenge, it is a set of controllers providing modern solutions to modern problems. All aimed at taking the next great step towards automation of food delivery for maximum food efficiency and fish growth to feed the next billion.
The daddy of the controllers is the vision based feedback system aimed at fisheries using floating food [mainly the up and coming aquaponics industry]. However many fisheries don't use floating food, the product for this implements a well defined open-loop solution fine tuned for your environment.
Some Basic Information:
>156 Billion KG of fish reared annual [that is more than beef!] 
>Optimum feeding regimes can increase productivity by 40%, food efficiency by 20% compared to conventional once per day feeding 
>There are many variables to consider when feeding fish 
Here is a quick video of the systems in action:
>Project Motivation: Number Crunching [The Fish Production Worldwide is Massive]
>Fish Feeding Basics [I]
 FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “THE STATE OF WORLD FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE” 2012
 Steven Craig “Understanding Fish Nutrition, Feeds, and Feeding” 2002
 S. J. Yeoh, F. S. Taip “Development of Automatic Feeding Machine for Aquaculture Industry” 2010
Plugging The Leaks
This section kind of tilters between all three aims [it re purposes a waste, automated to reduce Leakages and is an alternative input]. Treating urine as a valiable resource instead of a waste will also reduce the pollution of rivers and other natural water systems. [Take a look at this video to see more, not my video].
Reducing Nutrient loss
This section covers the automation of hydroponics using a self learning nutrient doser, designed for the use of human urine as a nutrient input but also very suited to traditional chemical based hydroponics
>Three Dollar EC - PPM Meter [Arduino] (Read This to Understand How We make design the probe) [P]
Find Alternative Inputs
Alternative Self nutrient Sourcing Aquaponics
The problem with using urine is that a person will never output more nutrients than he eats, so we are really only reducing the nutrient cycle waste and not having a real input to it. It’s a great start but we need to add to this solution. What is a plentiful and free nutrient source? The solution is flies, Fish eat Flies, and there is a definite correlation between poverty, hunger and the number of flies that piss you off while you are there.
I am just recently back from China, So now my concentration is on how to get the flies in the water, sure I could just hope they land in there for a drink but it is probable we need more than the stray flies popping in for a drink.
The hackers Solution to free nutrient sourcing:
What it need to do:
>Energy efficient [Solar powered would be best]
>Not source beneficial insects [bee’s mainly]
>Open source and cheap, despite their hospitality these farmers really haven’t got the funds to pay me
This will be a very basic system that makes no attempt to identify how many flies it has sourced or what kind of insect it sources.
I recall reading about bill gates foundation making a mosquito laser killer and dubbed it “Photonic Fence”. Yes Really! take a look:
We won’t be going into as much effort as Bill due to budgeting concerns, we will be using a camera and Raspberry Pi to sense the flies and to keep costs below £100.
Have a R-pi Based camera looking at a plain white back board above a fish pond, we can process the image to pinpoint dark spots [these will be the flies] exclude any with a high content of Yellow pixels [these will be the bee's] and use a servo controlled platform with a laser mounted [Does anyone want to be a gentleman and send me one to test with?] that uses short efficient bursts on light to cause the fly to fall into the fish tank. Have a set number of flies per day to keep the right feed requirements for the fish, and get it to turn off after it has reached its quota, reducing power consumption and increasing the number of flies ready for the next day.
We only need the flies in the water long enough for the fish to eat them, is it possible that we can stun them with a bright flash [think camera flash] so they drop in the water. And let the fish choose to eat them or not.
Re purposing Waste
Waste not Want not
It wouldn’t be a true hacker solution unless It solved more than one problem at once, we have so far sourced a nutrient input by using flies, plugged a major nutrient leak by re using our pee but what about utilizing the waste. Aquaponics waste comes in two forms:
All of the plant that isn’t suited to human consumption [vine from fruiting plants, stalks etc] and the clean roots available from Aquaponics can be used as supplementary feed for animal stock like pigs/cows or directly composted. Animal waste can then be composted.
Aquaponics provide a very large source of protein to accompany the vegetables/fruit grown up top. The carcass from the fish and other farm animals can either be placed in a fly breeding chamber or composted with the green waste.
All of this compost will then be used to increase the nutrient, carbon and water storage properties of the soil nearby the Aquaponics system. Turning their sandy [think farming on a beach] farms slowly into the lush dark coloured soil I am so used to seeing in England, taking Co2 from the atmosphere and storing it long term in the soil [Have we just helped to solve a third worldwide problem
The Blogs That Have No Real Home
Other Useful but quite Random Blogs
All of the other blogs that dont fit into the above categories are included here, it is mainly arduino related snippets of useful code to check memory usage, uptime counter that will survive thousands of counter roll overs and add to the uptime accordingly, reaspbery pi related hints and a diy pesticide doser.