Students at the Kennebunk High School in Maine have successfully constructed and maintained an off-the-grid greenhouse using Atmel-based Arduino boards, solar panels and a sprinkler system.
According to Alex Acquisto of the Kennebunk Post, Arduino Uno boards (ATmega328 MCU) are deployed in the greenhouse as soil moisture sensors.
“If the soil is too dry, the Arduino will trigger the battery-powered sprinkler system, also designed by students. The greenhouse is powered exclusively by a solar panel and depletes no other electrical sources, thus it is considered off the grid,” he explained.
“As the soil moisture sensor triggers the sprinkler system if it’s too dry, students are preparing a temperature sensor to test the heat level inside the greenhouse. If the heat becomes too high, the goal is that the window, by programming another Arduino robot, will peel open on its own.”
Acquisto also noted that much of the greenhouse material is recycled.
“The six rain barrels were at one time used by a restaurant to store soy sauce, [while] the screen window students [recently] began installing was pulled from a dumpster behind the school,” he said.
“It sounds like the work of trained professionals, but most of the students only became familiar with what it takes to maintain a greenhouse this year.”
In related news, Roberts Farm in Maine is currently testing an inexpensive Arduino-powered agricultural system that automatically monitors and waters crops. As Scott Taylor of the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal reports, the system has already proven itself by allowing Earl Morse, a retired teacher and volunteer at the Roberts Farm project, to successfully harvest a crop of spinach grown last winter in an exterior green house.
“[The system] keeps watch on the soil temperature and interior moisture through freezing temperatures and darkness. It works, not with hundreds of dollars worth of computer equipment but hobbyist-grade, [Atmel-based] Arduino boards,” wrote Taylor. “While the farm’s goal is teach local kids about growing their own food and the technology behind farming, Morse hopes to create an automated system that not only gives the plants light and keeps them watered but extends the growing season — and does it cheaply.”
According to Taylor, Morse hopes to publicly release the open source, Arduino-based system this fall.
“What we’re trying to do is make all the mistakes now, so it’s ready for everyone else to use,” said Morse.”That’s basically what we’re trying to do, make a farm robot. Maybe a robot farmer.”
Interested in learning more about farming with Atmel-based systems? You can browse through some of our previous stories on technology and farming including “The Internet of Things, Stalk by Stalk,” “Smart Urban Aquaponics in West Oakland,” “DIY Farming with Atmel and Arduino,” “Open Source Aquaponics with APDuino,” Agricultural Monitoring with Atmel AVR ” and “Arduino-Based Farming in Maine.”