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Content created for the 5th April 2021 FabAcademy recitation Agriculture part of “sustainability, materials, agriculture” , by Luc Hanneuse local instructor in AgriLab. Live video feed from the self-driving tractor by Florent Lemaire local instructor in AgriLab. Recorded video background on a bicycle from AgriLab to nearby villages.

Agriculture & context

Long history

Agricultural scenes of threshing, a grain store, harvesting with sickles, digging, tree-cutting and ploughing from ancient Egypt. Tomb of Nakht, 15th century BC source : Wikipedia source

Different agriculture everywhere, based on geography, climate, economy and culture. - example of farming in Vietnam - Industrial farming

Ferme du Bec Hellouin - Permaculture French Farm

Ferme des 1000 vaches - Industrial milking farm - The kind of picture on the milk bottle , this farming style exist

OpenAg projects

MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg) - FoodComputer - From 2015 till 2020

CityFARM - from 2013 to 2015

Urban vs Rural ?

DuckDuckGo search result for “smart gardening” ,

One of my first fablab project in 2011

Another vertical Food garden I made in 2015

Scaling problem , not sustainable : light, heat, water

Urban agriculture in vertical, indoor “farms” is on the rise. Electric lights allow the crops to be grown in layers above each other year-round. Proponents argue that growers can save a lot of agricultural land in this way. Additional advantages are that less energy is needed to transport food (most people live in a city) and that less water and pesticides are required.

Intensive Agriculture, tends to produce monoculture . You buy expensive specialised tools like gigantic tractors that force you to have huge monoculture fields.

Monoculture produce unbalance in the ecosystem , exhaust the soil of certain nutriment, this break dormancy of “weeds” and you need then to overcompensate with always more chemicals and more mechanical work of the soil, weeding and to compensate the exhausting of nutriment . Monoculture increases the risk of diseases or pest outbreaks.

Economics ?

FarmBot Genesis XL cost > 4000$ for 18m2

Organic Basil price in supermarket

Local vs sustainable

The transport pollution cost can be less than the pollution cost of local production

Artificial lighting to grow tomatoes, create unnatural scenery up to 10 km around.

Greenhouse illuminated the night sky to produce tomatoes huge impact on the whole ecosystem. The lighting perturbs wildlife in a wide area.

Urban and scale

Groot Eiland in Brussels : googlemap

One restaurant , One organic food shop : Groot Eiland

5 places with different types of food garden. Based on social reintegration through apprenticeship.

Another of the place is on a rooftop with different systems : Aquaponie , tomatoes and herbs in a greenhouse , external food garden. Installed by Bigh .

Rural Agriculture


  • Climate is specific to areas

  • Time scale : growing cycle , seasons.

  • Impact on ecosystems can take years and are difficult to understand.

  • Size scale : one basil, personal food gardens, greenhouses, crop fields…

  • Living creatures : you cannot do projects or tests without respecting life for animal or plants.

Problems to consider for Electronics

What is specific to build aprototype for agriculture ? Harsh conditions :

  • Extreme temperature variation , Light variation

  • Humidity

  • No grid power

  • No communication coverage

  • Many non-predictable external “problems” : pest, wildlife , other humans, extreme weather

  • Dust, mud, chemical corrosion …

natural sun light on electric cable, and ip68 connectors

harsh condition on electronics inside a protected case

external power and lorawan network

Function perfectly for 4 years, then heavy snow for a week finally attacked the IP68 connector and destroy the electronic board.

Community and technological response

2 examples :

  • AgOpenGPS and Centipède - Precision Agriculture

  • TTN and sensors - IOT and shared network

Precision Agriculture - a map of modulation for precision agriculture

Precise positioning and self-driving tractors enable more selective work .

- the full ramp sprays the same amount of chemical - modulation control each spray to deliver a specific amount of chemical

  • modulation of chemicals , where it is needed , less chemicals less cost

  • cover the whole area efficiently, shorter path = less fuel

  • The fact that you drive at the exact same place, you compress the same area with the weight of the tractor, more agricultural coverage

Cost of a self-driving tractor is high . It is more complex to repair, you have to rely more on the constructor. Cliché : Smart electronics = short term life. Tractor cost a lot, constructors build non-compatible hardware and software, even among their own products… A tractor will not be able to communicate to the seed drill.

RTK service provider cost for a farmer, in France , Orpheon , about 1k$ per year

AgOpenGPS , How to build systems that transform your tractor in a sel-fdriving system: software & hardware

Centipede , A network to share RTK antennas, and documentation on how to build your own GPS RTK antenna and share it with the community.

Centipede coverage RTK map on the 20th march 2021

RTK network vs GNSS

A 20-years-old tractor with a self-driving system built and adapted by farmers members in AgriLab.

Many 3D printed elements adapted to this specific tractor to enable self-driving.

Each wheel brand and model are different.

Difficult to have direct access to the driving system.

Farmers have to learn basic of arduino, electronics …

Debugging takes a big part of the process.

Many mechanical adaptations.

This video was filmed before some tuning of the “reactivity”, movements have been smoothed since;

IOT and shared network like The Thing Network

The Thing Network , shared LoRaWAN gateway, not specific to Agriculture, promote LoRaWAN.

The Thing Network LoRaWAN gateway map , 20th march 2021

The Thing Network enables anyone to install a LoRaWAM gateway and share it with the community.

Example of LoRaWAN cover of Orange

Commercial operators focus on high density population areas , rural agricutlure is located in low-density population area …

Satellite IOT should become more accessible but will not be optimal for all scenarios (payload delays, payload limits)…

Different sensors and microcontroller integration through TTN network. There is a big difference between weather forecast temperature (here from DarkSky) and measured temperature by self-made sensors. Some comparison of 2 identical small greenhouse, one automated by a thermal piston.

IOT sensors

Many weather sensors, weather forecast is important in agriculture.

With local sensors, you can improve or monitor real weather.

Some agricultural IOT tools.

Image recognition IOT sensors, measure size and number of insects, recognise some precise insect.

Same kind of sensor principle to recognise and count the number of snails and slug, during the night.

One AgriLab model for prototypes quick tests : Bpex and Solar companion for Bpex

Do we need sensors everywhere ?

Industry vs needed tools - self-construction

PréFabriqué , modular tools, you can decide for each tool position, you do not need to buy a new tool for each culture.

Commercial strip till, you have to work at high speed for large-scale field. With the prototype you can work on smaller scale field at low speed.

HighTech + LowTech = MediumTech ?

Human powered, adapted to certain agricultural practices, sustainable, DIY, “easy to understand” and to fix.

No external energy, automatic greenhouse window opener, thermal expansion piston.

Agriculture practises and cultural model

Do we need tractors of a few tons ?

Prototype small robot for mechanical weeding with some UniLaSalle students for the “RobOlympiades” contest , H3VR

Can presiced agriculture , multitool and other agricultural practises be merged or be inspired by each other?

Could help to make the transition to polyculture or permaculture to attain more symbiotic and sustainable agriculture practices.

FabAcademy projects around Agriculture

Here is a list of agriculture-related project made before 2021 during FabAcademy. I take the liberty to categorise them with some keywords. Those projects appears in a random order.

Green Bricks indoor watering system

Bokashing video: fermenting

Arduino Greenhouse broken archive

Pesticide spraying drone video: outdoor

OpenHydroponicGrowbox video: Hydroponics indoor

OXGROW video: aquaponics indoor

An aquaponics system video: aquaponics indoor

Aquaphonic Home Farming system aquaponics indoor

Local Farm video: vertical farming, indoor ?

BAMBOCO, An off-the-grid vertical herb garden vertical hydroponic farming, outdoor ?

Leaf collection robots: Leafbot video: outdoor

GIY Grow it yourself video: indoor watering system/aeroponics

Cogus video: indoor Mushroom cultivation system

Mykonos indoor Mushroom cultivation system

Fungarium video: Broken links , mushroom

GreenTubes video: indoor watering

Plant Hydrator Alarm video: indoor, hydrator indicator

FabSprout video: indoor, sprouting

Hydroponic pallet video: vertical

Monitoring for grey watering system video: outdoor, greywater

PlantCamGo video:

Mixoponics garden video: indoor, Aquaponics

Hydroponics 2.0 video: indoor hydroponics, aeroponics ?

Smart Planter video: indoor

Thirsty plant video: indoor

Urban Flex Pot video: vertical, indoor

GROUU - An Open Precision Agriculture Modular System video:

Fabtomation video: hydroponics

Azolla video: Aquaponics, biofertilizer, livestock feed, food and renewable energy

DAR - Dispositivo Autónomo de Recursos video: vertical

Hydroponic plant pot video: hydroponics

Hello happy plant video: sensor

Sensoric Beehive video: Beehive, outdoor

OpenGrow, Open BioReactor video: BioReactor

My BioSphere video:

The smart shield for agriculture video:

AutoFarm video: sensor

Wetbot Farmbot alike

PureImagination video:

Egg pasteurization video:

Pineapple De-shellig video:

GreyWater treatment video: greywater

Greenhouse video:

Wireless irrigation video: irrigation

Growbox hydroponics

Beesbot video: Beehive

Automatic Fish Feeder video: Aquaponics, indoor

Aquafeed video: Fish Feeder

Fogcatcher video: wildlife, outdoor

Plamo video: indoor

Automatic Plant watering system video: indoor

Hydroponic system video: vertical, hydroponics

Scoop video: chicken, outdoor

Cloud Pot video: indoor

Aquapioners video: aquaponic, indoor

Seed-Sprouting Green House video: greenshouse, outdoor?

My connected birdhouse video: wildlife, outdoor?

Personal FabFarm video: outdoor?

WaterSeed video: watering system

Mopos video: indoor

Selfie your watie video: indoor

FABull Cow

Adaptable folding structure Biosensor

The BirdCatcher Wildlife, outdoor

Plant stimuli Biosensor