How to get started building a Food Computer 1.0 (at least my story of it)

  1. Open up wallet, and dump out some money. Convince yourself its not about the money, its the education, helping open source community, and democratize farming around the world (quoting Caleb here)
  2. Head to git hub, and look in the hardware folder. Get your hands on the BOM excel document. Notice the tabs, the full cost is not listed on the first tab, that is just the electronics and basic gear. Next tab is the platform hardware, next tab is growing kit. Last tab reminds you of all the other items you might need.
  3. Head to amazon, start filling the cart.
  4. Wait for stuff to arrive. Almost a month or month and half for some items to clear customs from China (maybe longer elsewhere in the world).
  5. Head to Home Depot, start on the platform. Following the building the mainframe instructions… Measure, Measure some more, then Drill. Cut out the base, the motherboard dock, and motherboard panels.I found it easier to drill properly placed holes once I had the chassis frame assembled and could match that with the bolt. .Head back to Home Depot to get more stuff. (dont forget sometimes Amex has specials if you buy a lot of stuff at a store, clip that coupon it will save you some $$). Oh yeah, dont forget to wear work gloves. These computer nerd hands are not use to this manual labor.
  6. While at home depot and picking out the big items, plan ahead, ask them to cut it down so it fits in your car.
  7. Then start on the shell.
  8. Gluing the shell with hot glue. Difficult. You need a serious glue gun or some other adhesive. Your moms craft glue gun is not going to cut.
  9. Place the shell on the completed frame while, making sure you didn’t orient the opening in the wrong direction. Keep gluing.
  10. In between breaks with the Shell and Chassis, get out your solder iron and work on your jedi soldering skills. Eventually someone in this group will have a cheapo PCB that can be used to make this process go lightyears faster.
  11. Debug as you go. Check continuity. make sure you didnt short anything out. Solder your connector crimp joints for an extra measure of sanity later.
  12. assemble the motherboard, make sure you dont place the power supply over a bolt hole.
  13. drill the cable management case before you mount it (learned that lesson).
  14. Debug the arduino board sensors before going any further with the Rpi or Gro-Ui.
  15. Order the grow kit…
  16. stand up Rpi SD card. Dont skimp here on the SD card, class 10, bigger than 8GB not all SD cards are large enough to take the image.
  17. log into Rpi via SSH, if no ethernet is attached it constant cycles the Arduino and the mother board LEDs. you have been warned.
  18. modify server-ip.txt to your IP address. go get the gro-ui, install on a desktop, log in with “plantos” “plantos”… play around with it.

so far that’s where I am at… still waiting on some sensors from China to arrive. In the mean time, start reading up on growing. found a book on amazon for 2.99$ talks about PH and EC levels to keep the plants inside of… keep learning more.

How to start building one am not a computer nerd
Restructuring the forum
My Attempt at Bulding the Food Computer

I will visit Bay Area for Maker Faire BayArea next month (5/17),if any sensors you or anyone in this community want.Feel free to let me know.I can help to take.


First and foremost read the provided docs and posts before you start to build.


I am very eager to get started building a Food computer. However, I dont know if I should wait for V2.0 in september. How many hours do you think you spent to build it? If its not too long time, i may just built a V1.0, starting today…


I totally agree with Josh … just adding a few more details:

  • Strong suggestion: read the PDF documents several times, and get familiar with the building process of the PFC, so when you start, you have a good idea about the steps
  • The BOM list misses a few elements that are very important. For example: it says, buy a bunch of grove connectors (20cm and 50cm), but there is no indication about female/male types and number of pins, and I just discovered that we need two 6 pin cables, female to male, and so on …
  • Another element missing in the BOM is the grove sockets that we need to install in the proto-shield that will be attacjed to the arduino, …


@JoshSinykin I have a question for you: can you share with me how are you working on the Controller module (section 9 in the PDF document - MotherboardAssembly)? for example, when the instructions say: “Load the image onto the SD card and place in the raspberry pi” what does the image mean? Is it the gro-controller-master, or the gro-microcontroller-master, both, …?


Step1, download from git hub the microcontroller code. This is for the arduino. Locate the ino file. Open the arduino programming sdk tool and upload the sketch to the Mega. If you connect to the serial monitor you can view the output from the sensors.

Step 2. Move the usb cable for the microcontroller and plug it into the Rpi.

Step 3. Put the SD Card image for the Rpi onto a SD Card. I bought the wrong 8 or 16GB card, so I ended up having to use a spare 32 GB card. Not all SD cards are true in size. I got the SD Card image from the release section for the github for the Rpi.

I see that github is now saying this is deprecated… I will need to check out what the new method is going to be…

Step 4. put into the rpi, and boot it. Telnet into the Rpi, you can check the system status to see if python is running the if it is. then go get the gro-ui and connect it to the Rpi IP address.


@JoshSinykin this is gold ! Will start tonight :wink:


+1, Thanks for this @JoshSinykin. I was also having the same problem finding the rpi image.


Thanks Josh,
Followed most of your explanations, and in particular your picture of the Protoshield.

Box almost finished !!! Some sensors work, some not.

One question : how to run the Arduino IDE for tests from my computer since the MEGA 2560 is only connected to the RPI ?


hi thomas, i dindt get to that part yet, but. you could try with this

its a webide that you install on the rpi . And throught the browser you can code, debugg and open and arduino ide.

good luck


Let me try this. And I will let you know.


Take the USB cable from the Arduino, and put it directly into your desktop machine. Open up the Arduino IDE, and upload the ino file from gro controller. Once it is running, you can open up the serial monitor to confirm the screen I am seeing. This provides you an interactive view directly into the arduino. no Rpi at this point.

Once your sensors are working, at that time, you can connect it to the Rpi and use the Gro-ui and gro daemon on the Rpi to communicate to the Arudino sensors and run your recipes.


You can also from there, control fan, heat,… to test the ouput by typing in the console


also recomend you this one

so you can use a remote descktop


Josh, ok but when I connect the USB cable, Arduino IDE Serial Monitor says “Not connected to RPI”.


Mine says that as well @thomas , after it says that the sensor output will scroll out.


Did you guys get the EC and water temp reading right out of the box so to speak? I have everything connected and still het a 0.0 for both.


Mine work fine , out of the box. I had a wiring problem on the CO2 sensor but that was due to a mistake in the initial drawing



are you able to make a video of it and post it on youtube ? 0r be interested in selling it afterwards?