Tag Archives: automation

FarmBot, the open-source CNC farming robot

via Raspberry Pi

What do you imagine the future of farming to look like? The FarmBot team, located along the California coast in San Luis Obispo, is exploring just that. The team has set out to create humanity’s first open-source CNC farming machine to put the power of polycrop farming into the smallest of spaces.

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The FarmBot structure fixes directly on top of any standard raised planter box. You can think of it like a 3D printer, but instead of extruding plastic, the tool head deposits seeds, delivers water and rids the box of weeds, all by moving across a gantry. Powered by a Raspberry Pi 3, an Arduino Mega and a motor control shield, the FarmBot brings agricultural automation within the reach of the committed hobbyist.

FarmBot Electronics

FarmBot’s interchangeable tooling set is impressive and has been carefully designed so that you may print tools with any hobbyist-level 3D printer.

The universal tool mount features 12 electrical connections, three liquid/gas lines and magnetic coupling. Ready-to-print attachment tools include the seed injection mount, the water nozzle specially designed for efficient watering, and the weed suppression tool which detects and destroys weeds at the root. FarmBot has documented detailed technical specifications of the universal tool mount, to encourage community members to design additional custom mounts that are specific to their particular farming needs.

Check out the tech specs of the tooling attachments for further nerding out!

FarmBot’s drag-and-drop web-based platform allows you to design and build your planter box farm easily. No coding is required; in fact, it has an almost game-like interface. Once your design is complete, the sequence builder and scheduler will help to allocate appropriate care to each plant.

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It’s evident from looking at the design structure, documentation, CAD files, and detailed BOM that the creators of the FarmBot took to heart the idea of open source. By selecting off-the-shelf products and tools, they ensured this system is as accessible as possible. I’m really happy to see the Raspberry Pi 3 at the heart of FarmBot and I can’t wait to see how this community grows.

If you’re someone who’s serious about getting a good crop return from your small space, and you’re as mesmerized by FarmBot as I am, there’s still time to place a pre-order to receive one of the first batches ready to ship in February!

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Build your own Raspberry Pi terrarium controller

via Raspberry Pi

Tom Bennet grows Nepenthes, tropical carnivorous plants that I know by the name of pitcher plants. To stay healthy they need a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment, and Tom ensures this by housing them in a terrarium controlled by a Raspberry Pi 3 and Energenie’s Pi-mote starter kit, which provides an easy way to control mains electrical sockets from a Pi. He has written step-by-step instructions to help you build your own terrarium controller, the first such guide we’ve seen for this particular application.

A terrarium in a cuboid glass tank with fluorescent lighting, containing six Nepenthes plants of various species

Nepenthes plants of various species in Tom Bennet’s Pi-controlled terrarium. Photo by Tom Bennet

Tom’s terrarium controller doesn’t only monitor and regulate temperature, humidity and light, three of the four main variables in a terrarium (the fourth, he explains, is water, and because terrariums tend to be nearly or completely sealed, this requires only infrequent intervention). It also logs data from its sensors to Internet-of-Things data platform ThingSpeak, which offers real-time data visualisation and alerts.

Line chart plotting terrarium temperature and humidity over a 24-hour period

24 hours’ worth of temperature and humidity data for Tom’s terrarium

One of the appealing aspects of this project, as Tom observes, is its capacity for extension. You could quite easily add a soil moisture sensor or, particularly for a terrarium that houses reptiles rather than plants, a camera module, as well as using the online data logs in all kinds of ways.

The very clear instructions include a full and costed bill of materials consisting of off-the-shelf parts that come to less than £90/$125 including the Pi. There are helpful photographs and wiring diagrams, straightforward explanations, practical advice, and Python scripts that can easily be adapted to meet the demands of different habitats and ambient conditions. Thank you for writing such a useful guide, Tom; we’re certain it will help plenty of other people set up their own Pi-controlled terrariums!

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Chickens redux

via Raspberry Pi

Regular readers with an interest in poultry will be all agog to find out what we’re posting about today; yesterday’s post covered a chicken coop with automated doors, and we promised more chickens today. (AND TOMORROW! It’s all chickens all the way down at Pi Towers this week.)

Darren Steele, a Pi owner from Lancashire, was faced with the same chickens/predators problem that Eric Escobar dealt with in yesterday’s post by mechanising the coop door, and programming it to shut after dark.

It turns out that a couple of years ago, Darren also automated his chicken coop to solve the same problem.

The way he automated it is perhaps not the first solution that might have sprung to your mind or to mine; but that’s why Darren got a spot on the BBC news and you and I didn’t.

Speechless.

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