@wsnook @spaghet @Pabu01 @Webb.Peter @jake @adrianlu
Great dialog, very interesting to read and Im glad to have critical viewpoints expressed. I completely agree that an MVP PFC is a sorely needed "mod" of the PFC. I am seeing two very clear, and differentiated, paths of development on the PFC starting to organically (pun intended) take shape.
- One dev is trending towards a precise piece of scientific equipment to push the boundaries of our understandings of plants and their complex environmental, physiologic and morphologic interactions. This kit will be expensive by virtue of quality, reliable and precise tooling required and the skill level to assemble will be high (chillers = expensive, LED lights that put off 400s mol / m2 in correct spectrum w/tune-ability = expensive, the more sensors = the more expensive).
2.The other is a dev kit specific for folks just getting started (students, makers, etc) with a moderate degree of skill required and moderate cost (sub 300 USD...maybe even sub 100 USD?).
It is my dream that we (community) approach dev on the PFC like a custom desktop. In a custom desktop the standardization of hardware/software interfaces is KEY. You can get an empty tower on the cheap, throw in just enough processing, memory, graphics etc to get you started for an affordable price.THEN over time as you develop the need for additional power, capabilities, you can upgrade (better CPU, more RAM, dual graphics cards, water cooling for an over clocked processor, etc) and you have a catalog to choose from, user reviews, software capabilities that allow for expansion, etc.
This should allow for many communities to enjoy the PFC and for it to start developing user interfaces and BOM's that are mass customization.
Of course there are alternatives:
If you want to purchase a basic functioning system, non networked, non data gathering, not DIY, not opensource BUT frankly that grows really well on the cheap - your best option is honestly AeroGarden by miracle grow. This little bot is well designed (*remember miracle grow is Scotts and Scotts now owns general hydroponics the biggest player in the space), consumables are widely available, it can grow a variety of crops (tomatoes, peppers, greens) and they have a wide variety of bots to fit your budget (some now with apps). There are of course many others in this category - grove, urban cultivator, etc etc. Frankly a new one is added every day it seems and kickstarter is overflowing with them, take your pick and get started growing (buyer beware, but I have nothing but love for anyone wanting to grow).
If you want to build a hydro system, YOUTUBE IT literally 100's of video's like this (the 5 dollar hydro kit) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwfzlPIvGeU are available for your perusing pleasure. You can also go to just about any hydroponics store (at least in the US) and the folks there will help you get set up (beware though the parts costs are often 3-10x amazon or hardware store prices) but they have all the nifty components you'll need organized in an easy to find way. ***If you just want to watch things grow to first true leaf stage here is a tip - buy some expanded poly ethylene matting, throw seeds on it (greens, beans, peas whatever), water them a bit and BOOM you'll have sprouts. Its almost impossible to kill sprouts, you dont even need light or fertilizer (its built into the seed) to do it. I encourage everyone to do this, its really fun.
Now the question I had in my mind...I didnt want an off the shelf proprietary product (just not my style) AND I didnt want to build one off / unique systems because it would never be very optimized / modular enough to expand with my interest (*disclaimer I started by hacking the off the shelf ones, then building my own from youtube video's / unsavory chat room) plus I wanted HELP! Lots of smarter people than me in different fields (chemical engineering/fertilizer, horticulturalists, electrical engineers, data scientists, plant biochemists etc etc). This is where the idea of an open source / open standards bots (at that time called CityFARM, now morphed into OpenAg + PFC + Food Server) began.
I specifically made it a priority to launch this community and contribute what we had been working on. None of it is perfect none of it is finished / polished / documented in a way Im happy with yet but the project is off to the races and frankly taking on a life of its own outside of our little lab. Not to mention funded to continue at MIT for at least the next 3 years (which was a monumental undertaking all on its own, trust me. Try going to a financial sponsor saying,"Give me money so I can give away IP for free" lol)
THE GRAND CHALLENGE FOR ALL OF US
To work with / adapt / create standards that keep us working together.
To personally contribute meaningfully to the community project with whatever knowledge and tools you have. (WW"MIT"D was never the idea and "demo or die" should be our attitude)
Not to fork / disband and become either of the two alternatives mentioned above
That being said....
Lets have the first truly community derived device be the MVP PFC what do you all think? I am game if you are and will bring in some help from the lab
We will have to agree on core components (ie. should we stick with rpi and arduino? or maybe move on?), core sensors (frankly you can do a lot with a little on sensing), core acuations (nix heating/cooling? go back to flourescent?), frame material (its aluminum right now...but it could be wood that we finish well...or even plastic or foam?). This should be a sprint and build challenge (*not a prolonged conceptual forum conversation). Then we run the different machines and share our results. What do you all say?
As a starting place I would argue (just my opinion as an individual) to try and keep the same dimensions as the V2.0 PFC and design language (structure + skin + "motherboard"). That way what we learn on the MVP PFC can benefit those already starting to build V2.0. Should we set a BOM cost of 300 USD? 200 USD? 100 USD? Check out what we did for schools with the foam farm activity a while ago for 500 USD https://github.com/OpenAgInitiative/FoamFarmActivity/blob/master/ActivityGuide.pdf
Feedback? thoughts? Questions? ....btw I wish there was some community cowbell I could ring @gordonb so we could get the most feedback possible.