Steve Spence – an organic aquaponic farmer living in South Carolina – uses pond water to irrigate his vegetables. Monitoring the delicate balance between water and soil is absolutely critical, and often requires real-time readings.
So Spence decided to build custom sensors based on Arduino boards to keep an eye on the water’s pH, temperature and ammonia levels – along with soil temperature, moisture
levels and barometric pressure.
“From aquaponics to weather stations, farmers are starting to embrace the modern trends of DIY tech,” writes Caleb Garling of the Modern Farmer. “Arduino boards are creeping into amateur and professional agriculture to streamline and cheapen operations.”
Indeed, Spence is hardly alone in employing a DIY tech strategy for agriculture, amateur or otherwise. For example, Luke Iseman of San Francisco designed a “growerbot,” a sensor array that monitors a garden’s health and updates followers via Twitter. Meanwhile, Ben Shute, who runs Hearty Roots Community Farm, worked with a Boston-based engineer to build an Arduino-based sensor system dubbed “Fido” which sends text message whenever greenhouse temperatures hit dangerous thresholds. Inspired by the success of Fido, Shute founded Farm Hack in an effort to meld farming and engineering – with Arduino as a common denominator.
“Sharing data from DIY sensors can also add real value to the overall farming community,” notes Garling.
“Websites like OpenWeatherMap.org and HabitatMap.org have taken [this] on, dedicating themselves to aggregating information so farmers — or anyone for that matter — can drill down to the weather patterns for their tiny corner of the world for future planting and harvesting.”
As we’ve previously discussed on Bits and Pieces, the Maker Movement is steadily growing and making its mark on business, the economy and everyday life. The fundamentally social nature of the Maker space is inspiring individuals to launch innovative products easily and cheaply. In so doing, it is empowering a new generation of small/medium businesses and entrepreneurs – with Arduino capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
Atmel microcontrollers are the chips of choice for the Arduino platform, both in their AVR flavor and ARM varieties. Clearly, Arduino has democratized hardware in a way that allows anyone – young or old, engineer or not, rich or poor – to design anything they can imagine. As Arduino’s founder, Massimo Banzi puts it, “You don’t need anyone’s permission to create something great.”