Aeroponics Study Comes to Life

During my Youth Works employment at the Digital Harbor Foundation, I created an Arduino Hydroponics System.

I first began by researching hydroponics. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without using soil. There are many different forms of Hydroponics. They range in size and complexity. Here are a few different styles:

Image result for different indoor hydroponics

I choose to do the Aeroponic variation of Hydroponics. Within this sector, I picked the five-gallon bucket configuration. It requires the least amount of space, money, time, and upkeep. It looks like this:

Essentially the bucket is filled with water and the pump sprays the roots of the plants with nutrient enriched water. After conducting some research I found a website with steps on how to build this project. To access this website click this link: https://gardenpool.org/online-classes/how-to-make-a-simple-5-gallon-bucket-aeroponics-system

The next step was to create a project proposal and action plan. My action plan included the materials, their costs, and step by step construction of the buckets. Next, I began to assemble the buckets. I used the hole saw and a power drill to put holes in the top of the bucket. I could not find the guide for the hole saw, which complicated the process of drilling holes. The incorrect guide kept falling out. I thoroughly rinsed and sterilized the buckets to remove any debris. I cut the bottom out of the net pots with an Exact-o knife so that the roots could hang. I rinsed the hydrotons, which are clay pebbles used as a soil alternative, to remove all of the residues. The pump was placed in the bottom of the bucket and the cord was fed through the hole in the top. I filled the bucket up with water and added the nutrient solution into the water. Then I placed the net pots filled with hydrotons into the holes in the bucket. I plugged the pump into a timer so that it would turn on at certain intervals. When assembling the bucket, make sure to rinse all plastic shavings, dirt, and residue from the bucket to keep the water clean.

The buckets needed to be placed somewhere with space to hang the grow lights at varying heights. The area should have enough space so that the buckets are out of the way. At the tech center, I chose to locate the buckets in the kitchen. There wasn’t a place to hang the lights so I created one. My supervisor helped me use the circular saw to cut some wood. Then we placed wood blocks up and down two vertical planks with space to slide horizontal planks in between them.

To control the lights I created an Arduino switch. Shawn showed me how to use a simple blink program that turns the light on and off every twelve hours. I planted tomatoes, rosemary, peppers, curry, basil, and thyme. This is the final result:

 

After two weeks:

To take care of the plants you only have to check the pump and add nutrients every two weeks. Just make sure the roots do not grow into the pump and water is reaching them.  After I my session at Youth Works ended my plants died. The nutrients I was putting in the water were not concentrated enough to maintain mature plants. I had to completely scrap the buckets. In February of this year, we planted some strawberries in the bucket. we made some changes to the feeding schedule and the nutrients being placed in the buckets  The strawberries are doing well and we even ate some of them.