@_ic Thanks for contributing! I really like your focus on a "radical" approach to the MVP. One thing we all need to keep in mind is that even the PFC V2 isn't perfect yet. Without actuation of Co2, or ways to control the root zone temperature there are still major improvements to be made. I only bring this up because I want to make the point that no one still really knows what a "Food Computer" will end up being yet. That being said, OpenAg has already made some decisions about what they think a "Personal Food Computer" should be (V2 PFC)\, the question now becomes, do we agree?
I brought this point up to someone here locally this week. They intend to use the MVP for education in elementary/middle school classrooms this summer. A huge part of that hands-on learning experience is harvesting plants, and to an 8 year old one lettuce plant isn't nearly as exciting as a dozen. @webbhm reminded me that in open field research the plants on the edges of the field are excluded from datasets because they are typically outliers. If we end up using a type of light that is more of a bulb form, and less distributed like the V2 we may find that this makes a real difference where the plants sit in relation to the light source. All of that being said, when the time comes that we develop a Food Computer for Peppers, or Tomatoes, we will definitely not be building it for a dozen. In all sincerity I'm really not sure about this one, I think you make a great point, I would love to see your MVP if you developed it for just one lettuce plant.
Could you please post a picture of your build? Also, do you have a BOM? If not, would you mind at least telling me what LED's you are using, and have you had success thusfar?
I couldn't agree with you more. We want to make sure we don't go the same route as Tower Gardens, or Freight Farms in promising people success without any effort. I believe half of the educational value of a PFC comes from the process of building it. Farmers have always fixed their own equipment, and I don't think the future is going to be any different. I have learned an incredible amount just by killing plants. When I first got started I would use a simple $5 set-up with lights from home depot.
Having individual reservoirs allowed me to experiment with different nutrient concentrations. I started to learn what it meant to "stunt" a plants growth. I was using an air pump at the time, and sometimes when the water level dropped faster in one reservoir than another it would cause the variation in pressure to deprive another reservoir of oxygen. This taught me what "root rot
" was, something almost anyone who has grown hydroponically is all too familiar with. I experimented with different types of nutrients, teaching me what nitrogen defeciences look like. I also learned that if I didn't keep a fan on the plants the stems would become weak, and fall over causing them to rot and die (big problem with lettuce seedlings). It was this curiosity and hands-on learning that caused me to dive deeper and deeper into what was required to make one of these systems work. Due to my inexperience I was sort of forced into using simple materials and didn't have access to a real workshop. I then developed "Oasis"
which was my best effort at finding the cheapest possible way I could find to grow a pepper plant indoors. I wanted to try peppers because I knew that they required much more intense lighting, as well as a transition from vegetative to flowering and I was very curious about that process. It was also a way for me to practice pruning something which I think is critical in indoor growing (especially hobbyist level). Through pruning I pushed my peppers to have as many as 12 primary stems
and one plant would fill up my entire grow box. I could have just read about the value of pruning peppers in a paper and learn that 4 stem peppers double the yield of single stem peppers
. But, for me there was something really exciting about coming home every day and seeing how the plants had changed. @wsnook
pointed out the value of truly understanding the science behind plants. I agree it's all too easy to get caught up in thinking that there is one answer to how to grow a plant indoors and it's a Food Computer, which couldn't be further than the truth. Everything I did above I did without any sensors, that being said I have a background in databases so I knew there was value in data. I would take daily measurements of EC, PH, Temperature, as well as record my findings to an Excel sheet.
It's undeniable that I learned quite a lot from my experimentation, perhaps most importantly I started to understand the value of a "recipe" and creating the ideal conditions for a plant. All of this was done without any sort of "computer" integration to my boxes. In my personal opinion, what I did above does not fall under the definition of an MVP PFC because even though I grew food hydroponically, in a container, I did so without any "computer" integration and therefore no form of reliable data collection. I think that right now, it is very easy for us to be focused on the hardware, and we're starting to be more focused on the software, but we still haven't really shared any data. I would love for this MVP to not only give us a way to share our system designs and software with each other, but our data as well. That is something that really hasn't been accomplished visibly by anyone yet, but is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of OpenAg to me. One of the hardest parts will be measuring our success, after all who cares if I share a recipe that doesn't work? This is where the camera I think will prove our most valuable asset in the short term, even if it's in a very manual proof that I grew this
box with these
settings sort of way. To start us on the minimal path to computing, I think temperature sensors are the simplest/cheapest method for us to establish automated data logging, and a fan (thermostat) is the simplest/cheapest form of actuation. All other aspects of the MVP really are about creating a successful indoor hydroponic system with a light source. The rest of the "recipe" we can try to control manually and help each other to fill in the blanks. For example: I have access to a PAR meter and will be testing the lighting outputs of the MVPs we develop locally. Even if we can't all measure our PAR, we can help each other by saying that if you use this box a plant will have ___ PAR at 12 inches from the light, and ___ PAR at 6 inches from the light. This would enable someone to begin experimenting with different plants, and the impact of changing the PAR, without even having a PAR meter.
I plan to only post a survey on this thread tomorrow due to the activity primarily having been here. I will also be revising all three of my first posts to reflect what I feel the communities opinions have been. PLEASE don't hesitate to point out if you feel I've overlooked something or made a false assumption/assessment.