Automated Indoor Garden - Part 1 - Concept and Testing

I don't remember how I got the idea, but it has stuck with me for a few years - a fully automated indoor garden. This was a great winter project, and it started with a sketch of the system. I was interested in having a tiny year-round indoor farm at home to supplement fresh groceries, learn about plants and gardening, and the engineering challenge.

I then started researching and designing the containers. I knew I wanted to have some sort of interchangeable hanging system, I knew I wanted it to be pretty (not the classic PET coke bottles). With a 3D printer I created supports and ring enclosures.

Once I had sourced the basic container and tested it's strength and feasibility, I set out to create the frame, which was made to fit exactly in front of my kitchen window. Under the frame I placed a series of boxes that I could use to store the water containers and electronics.

The next task was designing the pump system. The plan was to have each plant pumped water individually. This would allow for a very fine tuning of the system for each plant. I considered using a single pump with valve system at first, but quickly found out it was much easier and cost effective to create a an individual pump for each plant instead of the valves. The pumps I settled on are peristaltic pumps, which have the special property of working in a closed system for the fluid loop. This means that they are less prone to leaking, oxidation and calcium blockage. I placed an order for all the parts and tested whether the pump could push water up 2 meters.

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