For various reasons explained below, I have come to the decision to (temporarily) take a different approach to this project that will make it more possible for me to be a part of it. I’ve decided to post this in case my approach might help others get started on this journey.
Basically, I’m turning a small cabin into a grow room, and building a flood and drain hydro setup inside. I am computerizing the climate control and automation using some combination of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Particle’s Photon. I’m writing all of the initial code to operate it, but I’m trying to stick with PFC compatible hardware since the end goal is to shift to OpenAG software once I have the correct hardware in place. The end result will basically be a (very) small food server (7.5’ x 11.5’), running 100% on the OpenAG platform. Of course, my media based growing system (versus the PFC’s DWC approach) will necessitate a basic shift in operation theory regarding movement of the nutrient solution.
So, here are my reasons for taking this approach:
Growing Knowledge - Despite a successful soil garden this past summer, I know very little about growing. It was my first garden, and hydroponics is new to me. If I magically had a PFC in front of me right now, I wouldn’t know what instructions to give it. I would be reliant on some else’s climate recipes. You can tell me to “grow it this way”, but I am always going to ask, “Why?”. To steal & adapt an old food adage - Give a man a climate recipe, you feed him YOUR crop. Teach him to grow, and he creates HIS crop.
Growing Capacity - The whole reason I got into growing was to feed myself (and eventually others). I have an ongoing goal to grow as close to 100% of my own food as I can. The “grow bed” or “grow space” in a PFC is quite small for this purpose. The increased capacity will also increase the pace of knowledge. More plants, more experiments, more data, more results. Also, my decision to use a media system as opposed to DWC should open me up to a wider plant variety.
Cost - I know the team is working hard at cost reduction, but right now the cost of the PFC seems a bit out of my reach. Even if I could afford it, my approach allows me to get started sooner, and should result in a higher food per dollar ratio. The gains in capacity and knowledge make this a more efficient use of my time and money, while still resulting in the ability to participate in the Open Ag Initiative.
I’m sure this journey will result in much knowledge I can contribute back to the community. The effort I’m seeing here is quite beautiful and inspiring. Open source collaboration never ceases to amaze me, and I think we have an opportunity to take this project to great places, together.
If there is interest, I will update this topic with my progress. And, naturally, any code or schematics I generate will be freely available to any and all.
Here is a very preliminary pic.