We're Building a City Farm

Latest version of our open source Arduino 3D printed fish feeder.
January 26, 2015 -- BIT Magazine We generally cover what other makers are doing here and around the world, but every once in a while we like to make something of our own. Our resident makerspace, HeliosLabs has been working out the details of an indoor aquaponics system made from scratch. That includes the ferrocement containers themselves, made on site.

Using off-the-shelf LED flood lights (30W/6500K), an ordinary aquarium pump, a 24 hour timer, and our own 3D printed Arduino-driven fish feeder, we've managed to automate just about every aspect of the project.

Our basil has grown faster than the plants on our office's balcony and the chili peppers are growing much better considering the ones on the balcony were eaten by birds

With all these lessons learned, we are ready to take the next step, a full-sized rooftop garden that will produce food and ingredients for various projects we have planned in the future and perhaps even to line a booth at one of the many farmers' markets springing up in the city. We won't just be growing herbs on the roof though, that would be too easy. The entire project will be automated on a larger scale than our aquaponics system.

We plan on producing our own water using a condenser which is basically just a food-grade dehumidifier. The water stored will automatically irrigate our container garden (made on site using ferrocement) and to top off our aquaponics system when the water level drops.

Since the garden is on the roof in a very sunny country, we will take the lessons we learned during our visit to the solar/biogas project in Pa Deng Phetchaburi, and use solar power to run everything. 

In the coming days we will be developing prototypes for our soil moisture sensors and water level indicator for the irrigation system. We are also trying to develop an open source solar charge controller, but if worst comes to worst we will just use an off-the-shelf version at first.

To top it all off, we will include a way to monitor the entire system using Twitter notifications and a webcam.

All of this has been done by others before, but not many projects incorporate all of it together. The project will be open source and everything we learn by doing it will be shared with others. It would be nice to look across the cityscape one day and see rooftops used to grow local, organic food and ingredients fueling a local economy of small businesses like what Comcrop is doing in Singapore already.

No matter what, we are trying to prove the merits of makerspaces, open source technology like Arduino, and 3D printing by using them all in a practical project. The aquaponics system was a small example of how all of this comes together. CityFarmBKK will be a much larger example. To follow the progress of CityFarmBKK, check out HeliosLabs' blog, or follow HeliosLabs on Twitter or Facebook.

BIT Magazine is a bi-lingual platform for Thailand's maker movement to connect, grow, and collaborate with maker communities abroad. Follow us on Twitter here or on Facebook here.
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