Alternative Hardware for DIY Food Computers


Hey all, not sure if i’m starting this new thread correctly, but since i’m still new lets hope.

So, i think the idea of a food computer is a fantastic idea and one i was somewhat contemplating doing already. I have some ideas floating around my head that i mostly just wanted to share and/or have a place to write them down. The fact that a prototype model exists is great, and good that a v2 with better electronics and hardware is in the works. But since this thing is still rather in it’s infancy stage the Open Hardware and DIY Hacking should help improve the design over time. So here is a place for people to jot down hardware improvements that they think are better, more cost effective, etc.

So I will go first,
I think i will try to build my own Food Computer with my knowledge and available items, and if i do then i will probably start another build thread for my design / mods specifically. Until then here are a few of my ideas.

First, In the beginning i wont be as focused on the electronics and/or computer part of my food computer, but my main goal will be to put together an easy-to-assemble and hopefully more cost effective frame and turn that into a functional aeropnic grow box. What i’m thinking about using for my frame is a 2ft x 2ft T-slot based 8020 brand extruded aluminum shell that i assembled some time ago and was working on turning it into a homemade home designed large 3d printer and/or CNC milling machine. That project is currently kindof on hold and moving slow so i don’t expect it to be finished anytime soon. If that’s the case then i think i may re-purpose it and give it new life as a food computer and/or small aeroponic grow box for winter plant breeding.

Second, i think i really only need a few items to get a bare minimum grow box up and running. Since i already have the t-slot frame i just need, some insulation to cover the sides, an LED grow light (on order from china), and a few dirt cheap ultrasonic fog/mist “atomizer” (5 on order from HongKong).

Current hardware BOM cost estimate is about $134.08 for the 10 pieces of 1010 8020 t-slot frame, $16 for 5 24v ultrasonic fog machines, $18 estimated insulation from the original BOM, and $50 for the 100W (but really 55W) LED grow light.

So this is where i’m at right now. Let me know what you guy’s think, if you’d like me to post my sources, and if you guy’s think my plan is realistic or totally off base or what. I just learned about this the other day so i honestly don’t know how well the old design worked, how active the forum is, how much better the V2 design will actually be. I’m mostly aiming for 1. super ease of build (for myself) and 2. low cost / best functional devices.


HI Andrew,
Thanks for your input. Could you please send links to the items that you mention ? I am very interested !



Hi Ronald, sure, let me try to track down all the appropriate links. I will also try to post a photo of my current T-Slot frame (though keep in mind i was originally intending this as a homemade CNC machine).

Photos of the current frame:

Links to items mentioned above:

  1. 8020 Brand 1010 and 1020 size Aluminum T-Slot

  2. Cheapest Ultrasonic fogger i could find (better units may be available)

  3. The original BOM on the guthub page mentioned about $18 worth of insulation for siding, so i am currently going with that. I may change my mind down the road if i find a better option. I will mention that i did buy this thing from HomeDepot but i don’t know if it will work.

  4. The 100W (but really 55W) LED grow light.


In addition i found this today as a neat idea to keep those ultrasonic misters near the top of the water. But the design seems super simple so i honestly think i can clone the design in Solidworks and make a 3D printable version that people can print their own. Let me know if there is any interest in that.



I think i’m going to keep working toward my t-slot based grow box and/or PFC idea. I think i may even try to get that white waterproof panel/tile to work and i have since ordered 5 more to cover each side of the square. They may or my not work well, but i think i will try to use them first and replace them with something better down the road if i need to. In preparation to use them and figuring out the best way to mount them i have come up with a new mod for my t-slot corner brackets. The new ones now have a 3d-printable threaded hole in the side which should accept 1/4"-20 threads from the bolts that are already used on the t-slot. I have also come up with new configurations for my outside corner brackets that i designed and i think they will work quite well.



I didn’t see a topic or thread for lighting specifically, so i guess i’ll just post this here.

I’m hoping to do several indoor growing experiments this winter hopefully coinciding with building my own grow box which i think then could easily be turned into a full personal food computer with added electronics ans sensors and devices. But i just wanted a quick place to share that i got my first LED grow light yesterday. I’ve never had an LED grow light before. In fact this spring i tried to start many tomato seedlings early for the garden with the lighting i had available, but it was totally inadequate and i had many problems. I think good lighting is a big factor in being able to grow well. This LED bulb i got today is not the flat one i ordered for my grow box / food computer (that light is referenced above in a previous post and should be arriving soon), but it still looks like it is a good LED grow light that i think will work for other growing.

One of the new LED grow lights i bought for my upcoming winter/indoor growing experiments came yesterday. Boy is it bright! So bright in fact that it can hurt your eyes if you look directly at them. But this thing is so bright i expect my tomato seedlings and others will not die this time and will actually get adequate lighting. I chose these on their relatively high wattage (can only expect about half of what they say) and relatively cheap price, plus shipping from a US warehouse to speed up shipping rather than china direct. I was actually aiming more for the balanced red and blue lighting and less on the “full spectrum”, but these do include about 5 white leds on there as well. I figure they mostly help in reducing strain on human eyes from indirect light.

@Peperoni, you bring up some good points about LED lighting. I will respond with my thoughts.

  1. Watching some of those vertical gardens / farms all in purple LED lighting and now having just bought this bright monster i can see how that puts strain on human eyes, i especially wouldn’t want to be in that long term as a job. White lighting or “full spectrum” is one way to go, and if so i tend to slant toward using “warm white” or “neutral white” as those are easier on my eyes. In fact with these new car led headlights flooding the market some of them are so harsh on my eyes it’s hard to drive at night now. Especially those heavy blueish or “cool white”. I think they should inact laws that a certain brightness and certain wavelengths or frequencies of LED lighting is illegal in car headlights. But that is just me.

A possible vialble alternative to full spectrum or white lights (especially if one wants to save as much energy as possible) might be to use those color filtering glassses for employees. I’ve seen yellow, green and red filter glasses on Amazon. Not sure which would be best, but they are available.

2.True. And that is an excellent point. I think one should also throw in UV LED lights into that discussion as UV may have an effect on Anthocyanins, which may have an effect on flavor and health benefits such as antioxidants. I would like to know more about this.

3.Your right, having individual controllable led lights would definitely be the way to go as it is my understanding that blue light tends to be more for leafy growth and red light tends to encourage flowering and/or letting the plant know that fall is approaching. In some day-legnth sensitive plants such as the Teosinte i am growing again this year they only start to flower or tassle and silk when the days get long and darker. For me in a climate way far north than what Teosinte is used to growing in (Colorado vs. Mexico) this presents a slight challenge. And it may for other plants as well.


I have done quite a lot of research into COB lighting, this is the types of LEDs that can make “white light” the problem however is that right now they are extremely expensive, or a scam.

I can create a thread about lighting if you are interested, LEDs are very complicated when it comes to calculating the actual amount of light usable to a plant. Without getting into the details of why COBs are better I can certainly vouch from a DIY point of view that they are 10x easier to work with. It is a single bulb in many cases that can be installed.

I will say there is a newer CXB3590 Bulb by CREE now tops out at 300 lumens per watt, which is very impressive given where they were ten years ago.

Here is the CREE CXB3070 COB LED installed onto a heatsink. I find that CPU coolers are extremely cheap to find because there are so many on old computers, they tend to be more than sufficient to cool the bulb (100-200W active heatsink). I can say that lights are capable of growing these peppers which require a full spectrum, as well as high intensity lighting to actually create large peppers. They operate at 24V and are capable of 100W, but to get them to be more efficient I only drive them at about 1.4 Mamp. This allows me to have it run at almost 66% efficiency in terms of output.



LED Driver:


I always wonder why the complex of using mix of (red, deep red, blue , orange IR,UV,…,etc) which may be need different drivers if we can use full spectrum or white light leds! ,I think its time and cost effective ,what do you think ?,I’m more than interest in your DIY LEDs topic .


A separate thread on lighting might be good, but i don’t mind if you want to keep talking about it here.

the COB’s are interesting, i didn’t know that’s what they are called, i just referred to them as “giant LEDs”. But you are right, a lot of review videos of the cheap ones on youtube show that many of them are fakes or are partially bad, and is one reason i would stay away from them for now. But as an all-in-one solution they might be a good idea.

The only thing that raises my eyebrows is the idea that i was talking about with Ronald. That perhaps individually controlled LEDs might be better long term as for a food computer it makes emulating certain specific growing conditions like season length better and closer to the real thing. For example, some crops that are grown in Mexico and South America are day-length sensitive. Which means that when someone wants to grow them up here in the U.S. in a more temperate climate it becomes problematic. Like with the teosinte I’ve been experimenting with for a few years off and on. They only flower when the day length gets shorter and thus more red light shifting as fall approaches. By the time the natural red light mix is reached in my climate it is nearly winter and either too late or nearly too late for me to get viable seeds before snow hits. Now in a Food Computer or a controlled environment this may not be as much a problem, but it still may pose some, and emulating the right mix of lighting may be critical for hard to grow plants that are genetically adapted to certain conditions and might be something we should think about in future lighting considerations.

As moha brings up UV again, do the white leds or “full spectrum” actually include UV light? I was under the impression that they don’t and thus separate UV LEDS might need to be added for certain biochemistry to be maintained (ie. my conversation with others about the connection between UV and anthocyanins or Mars climate emulation).

One idea would be to move towards individually controllable RGBW (Red-Green-Blue-White) LED chains like what i have seen on Adafruit with the LED rings. Those things look pretty cool, and something similar would make it so you could program a push button and instantly be able to change them from a mix of blue and red to white to put less strain on human eyes, and then be able to change them back when the human operator leaves. For those that want to help save energy the red-blue mix should save power as plants don’t absorb the yellow spectrum. But white light is easier on human eyes.


I am starting a new thread on COB LED’s here:


I figured this was a good time to finally take a photo of the large LED panel that i plan to use for my indoor grow box and my seed starting shelf. Man this thing is bright.


What other supplies have people used instead of the PVC sheet, white, 1/2" thick, 24" x 96" that is listed on the BOM?