For young people, between 20 and 50 years old, that due to this frenetic way of life has the need to stop, breathe and become aware of their environment. People who do not have, in addition, enough space: we live every time in smaller flats.
The urban gardens at home are a trending topic nowadays, but every time we have less time and less space to grow them in our homes. We work outside home, we travel, we can not maintain a routine. Plants need continuous and routine care.
How to maintain this space and small oasis in our lives?
We need a remote system, which no matter how far we are, allows us to communicate and take care of the plants. A connection to our lovely garden in our pocket.
The user must be the center of the project. I would be able to make a product that is easy to assemble in different balconies (Ikea concept), by only one person, and easy to understand and use. (The user has not to know about electronics or mechanics, for example)
It has happened to me, I love being able to grow aromatic plants and some other vegetables at home. The first problem is that my balcony has 2 square meters, and the second one that I am away home usually. I like to travel and I work without a fixed schedule, so many times I can not water my plants and their end is a disaster.
And why not an automatic or self-acting system?
The tendency to have an urban garden does not come with the idea of being able to supply with what we plant in it. In point of fact, we do not think about being able to eat from there.
It goes further.
We do it for reasons that we have heard but that really gives us great personal benefits. We talk about psychology.
The urban gardens give us a direct contact with nature, but they are also an escape route of stress, help self-realization, self-esteem, and perform a therapeutic function.
My project is about reinforcing that link between user and his/her urban garden.
You can find my final project firt scheme in the image below:
After the first idea of the project, I needed to have a real market vision. What do it exists, which can be similar to my project?
It was important if I wanted to be original and offer something else to my users.
_ Most of them are individual sensors linked to web/app, but do not perform actions. Those who perform actions; are very expensive or do not make a differentiation between a plant and another. _ Many of them are not already available in the market. _ The majority attached plant database, that is very interesting.
_ There are systems inspired in Farmbot >> They are so "machine" concepts, I need something lighter for my users. _ Farming Machine, MTM, FabLab Egypt 2017 _ Systems that only manage data through sensors >> I want actions that I can control remotely, which are the real main problem. _ Claudio Pecere, FabAcademy15 _ Irrigation systems using water pumps >> I would like to avoid using this type of watering system, I have defined a water tank by gravity, and maybe (in the future) pick up rainwater (healthier for the plants). _ Lina Monaco, FabAcademy 2015 _ I like the one from Josefina Petrini, but it is only designed for a plant and I do not see it feasible for outdoor use. Or Luis Belmiro, FabAcademy 2015, Personal FabFarm, but it is based on raspberry pi and I would like to do my own PCB. _ I do not like farms based in hidrophonics systems like Maria Boavida, FabAcademy 2015: It needs to be always working by water movement. Or all-plants-toghether irrigation system as Suhas Labade, FabAcademy 2015. _ I find interesting the idea to charge the battery by sunlight.
My first watering system idea was to design a mechanical system inspired on a car-clutch system to selection the watering of a plant or the other.
After our weekly Regional Review, we thought that maybe It will be difficult to maintain the water tightness in this kind of system. So, I have developt two options of watering systems:
_ OPTION 1: Main electro valve system (water ON/OFF) + Mechanical plant selection, with 2 steppers. _ OPTION 2: Main electro valve (water ON/OFF) + individual electro valves to plant selection.
You can see the two options schemes in the image below:
NOTE: I know that the option 2 is safer, water-tighter and gives the option to water more than one plant at a time. Even so, I would like to try the option 1: make a physical prototype and see if it is or not watertight.
Before of development of two watering systems, I needed to define the main structure of the urban garden.
My Smart Urban Garden will be vertical, due to the user: People who do not have enough space, we live every time in smaller flats.
It will be, as I decided before, "easy" , IKEA CONCEPT, so It is going to be: the flattest and reduced packaging I can project.
And in addition, It will be custom personalized sized and mounted: no stock, personal high and width, personal pot number and disposition.
So, during week 3 exercise about Computer Aided Design I made structure first concept in 3D and I rendered it for viewing which was watering system position idea:
As I said before, I wanted to make tests with a mechanical concept I had in my mind, although I knowed it was not the best option. I needed to experiment it. :)
So I did these two sketches to see it clearer, before developing it in a 3D software:
After having a clearer idea in my mind, I develop it in 3D in my computer, and I have prepared it to future exercises (to prototype it in next weeks some technologies).
Finally, I develop, made and tested it into Molding adn Casting week, you can see all the proccess there.
I tested it and it seemed to be enough water tight, but in my opinion it would be difficult to make it work again and again. It has to move away and then put toghether one of the parts a lot times during its life cycle, mechanically. I discard it.
I link, here below, video where I tested this mechanical system.
Continuing with the scheme I did, I developed a module system, to get in it in the Custom Sizing idea, like the structure.
It would be solar powered, with a battery connected to the micro-controller, which would control all the electro-valves.
We would have a Main module, with all the electronics, water input and the first 4 watering outputs. Then, if the user wants to add more waterings because he/she has ordered a bigger structure or has more plants, it is possible to order Adding Modules. With these Adding Modules it will be easy to add 4 at 4 waterings:
I decided to go ahead with this second concept for these reasons:
- It is water-tighter. - It allows the watering of more than one plant together. - It will need less energy. - It is possible to expand it only with a click, due to adding modules. - A mechanical concept is is more susceptible to failure. - Electronic concept will need less and easier maintenance.
So, I continue developing this second concept during my final project ongoing. You can follow it in detail in FINAL PROJECT PROGRESS area.