Welcome to Kai Tiedemann's Fab Academy Website

This site was created to document my work progress over the duration of the 2018 Fab Academy. It is my first encounter with html coding, thus it will become a plain, unadorned, but hopefully clear and functional site. I use a template from http://zypopwebtemplates.com/ for a starter, which I may change as I become more comfortable with coding.

In this section, I will briefly introduce myself and the idea I have about my final Fab Academy project.

My Final Project: Clay Pot Irrigation


Clay pot irrigation is a technique that reaches out 4,000 years back into the African continent. The idea is simple: for an efficient, water saving way to irrigate crops, people bury unsealed pottery next to the plant, fill it with water and close it. According to the organic content of the original clay mixture from which the pottery was made, this water oozes more or less slowly through the pores of the vase (Fig.01). High organic content leaves more pores and thus causes stronger irrigation.

Fig.01: Principle of clay pot irrigation
Fig.02: Manually produced clay pots


During our field work on the Green Desert Project in Lima (Peru), my wife Anne Lummerich and I experimented with clay pot irrigation and became absolutely convinced of its benefits. However, it was still a laborous business to carry 4 liters of water to 800 trees scattered on some hills of poor Lima suburbs once a week. It was back then already that we wished for some sort of automation. In addition, the clay pots we had ordered from manual production (Fig.02) were nice but not entirely reliable regarding the water flow rate. Both shortcomings I want to address with my final project.

Downscaling the Lima field situation

Fig.03 displays the situation upon which my project is based: three (out of originally 800) irrigation units (drought tolerant local tree species) surrounded by 3 clay pots each (4). The clay pots are connected to the water reservoir (1) by tubes and hoses (3) that all merge in one distribution unit (2). This unit receives signals from an Arduino-compatble soil moisture sensor (5) and operates its valves to fill the clay pots according to the soil moisture deficit.

Fig.03: Concept for clay pot field irrigation system based on Green Desert pilot study


Due to the apparent lack of a reforestation site on water-deprived hills, I chose a much simpler approach: an in-house clay pot irrigation system for automated water supply over up to 6 weeks of absence. This laboratory scale version allows not only to gather experience with measurement and control units plus the production of water resistant casings to be exposed to potentially aggressive climates; it also introduces a reproducible fabrication of irrigation clay pots. As indicated above, current suppliers cannot guarantee a stable water flow rate. This may be addressed by choosing 3D clay printing with properly defined input material under fixed and reproducible conditions.

This is me

Regarding the contents of FabAcademy, I am an absolute beginner in almost any aspect and I expect these upcoming months to be challenging - but rewarding and exciting all the same. I hold a Diploma in biology with a minor in civil engineering and a Master degree in Management, Business and Economics, both from Aachen University. It was there, too, where I did my PhD on fog harvesting and water cycles of tropical cloud forests. After that I worked as scientific staff at the Research Institute for Water and Waste Management (Aachen University - again) before I became full professor at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences back in 2010. Between 2006 and 2009, my wife Anne and I lived in Lima (Peru) where we created the NatGeo-funded Green Desert Project - an experience that is still so vividly present and with yet so much potential for improvements that I chose it as inspiration for my final project. My profship is on Environment and Ecology, and besides lectures, me and a number of colleagues are creating the Rhine-Waal Green FabLab to be launched by early 2020. Our Kamp-Lintfort campus is home to one of the largest FabLabs in Germany that keeps me fascinated ever since I first visited. Playing an active part in the soon-to-come new FabLab division I found it essential to take part in FabAcademy.