Where's the cooling aspect of the food computer


Yes, proves my point. vastly overpriced novelty products like those are all over the place. First, those products contain far less computer parts, functions, and sensors than the so called “food Computers.” their simply a mini greenhouse/grow room. But second and most importantly, products like those are still nothing but show pieces for people with money to waste who not only don’t care about actually being cost effective, but don’t care how little they can grow in them.

Their novelty items, kind of like a fish tank. Nice to look at, and a conversation piece in the room, but not rally useful for much else. Sure they can grow minimal amounts of small plants in them, but not enough to even make a difference in a grocery bill. It will take 30-40 years to break even just from the cost of the unit, That doesn’t even include the consumables like nutrients and electrical costs. People don’t buy them to grow food cost effectively, they buy them for 3 reasons.

  1. Like I already mentioned as a novelty show piece for their homes.

  2. As a gift from rich people for friends and family to get them interested in hydroponics. Much like the Aero Guarden fad. Just as a starter system to get them interested in hydroponics. But once they do get interested, the novelty system goes on a shelf in the closet or garage, and they build a real system to grow enough plants to actually grow enough produce to eat, but cost effectively as well. A tomato doesn’t taste better because it cost $40 to grow. If it’s not cheaper to grow yourself there’s no point in growing it.

  3. The reality is most of those type units are bought by pot growers to grow their seedlings in. But again when you make $1,000-$1,500 a pound for your product, you simply don’t care about being cost effective in the first place. In fact that’s the biggest problem in the hydroponics industry. When the pot growers are willing to pay any price for products, the manufactured don’t have any incentive to reduce their prices. Their profit margins are 10-20 times higher than normal, simply because pot growers don’t care about being cost effective. They make it up and much more in one crop.

But when your growing fruits and veggies, you have to be cost effective/efficient or there’s no point in growing them. That’s all I do, and what I help others to do as well. That’s the whole point behind my website www.HomeHydroSystems.com to help people understand how hydroponic systems work, what makes them different, and how to build their own custom hydroponic systems. Not only to grow their plants successful and get the most out of their space and budget, but also to be cost effective. Being cost effective means “cost the same or less to grow than to buy at the store”.

In many cases it’s even cheaper to grow plants hydroponically than growing them in soil if you do it cost efficiently. That means largely getting the most out of the materials and space you have to work with, using the least amount of electricity as possible, and sourcing out cost effective nutrients. If you do that. growing plants hydroponically costs less than buying the potting soil and soil amendments, as well as the additional fertilizers needed to grow plants in soil.

There are manufactures that sell cost effective nutrients and other products, but you have to look for them because 90% of the manufactures cater to the pot industry, not the home growers or commercial produce industry. So you have to know what to look for and where to get them from.

So again, thanks again for proving my point… People who buy those units have money to waste and buy them to show off, not to be cost effective or productive. Their nothing but a novelty and conversation piece. The Aero garden sold millions of units as well, but nobody uses them to grow real produce either.

Have you seen the aquaponics show piece yet. It’s a drip system that has a fish tank at the bottom. It’s literally a fish tank show piece. Not that’s worth the money, but it is a nice show piece if you like having fish tanks. Here’s a concept picture of it.

It will never grow enough produce to be productive, but it looks great. Even so, you could build something very similar for a fraction of the cost of a manufactured unit. You could even custom build it for a specific space when you build your own.


I live in a neighbourhood where recycling is 20% of the local business, and I can tell you that you can build fabulous things scavenging in these recycling yards. They also get the stupid as F. toys like isolation pods for Spa or Airports (malls). So, we may see some of these nice design toys in a few years :smiley:

I don’t any guy doing hydroponics / aquaponics that ate from his production more $$ than he spent in his setup. Only commercial growers can produce enough to eat from the leftovers and you better like lettuce !


so do I BUT anything that gets people thinking about how to get going on this is fine by me. It’s like the pc industry, first came the hobbists then jobs, next IBM/gates then the cost curve went down and finally we end up with linux and the excellent Raspberry Pi and open source. It’s just the way of things. People want this just in a convenient form. It’s getting to that form which the is the trick. I suspect you are correct that apartment growing will always be for small stuff BUT in Cities we have masses of space that goes unused, this is where the container farm concept kicks in. We need to build UP not out and just look at a container yard. So these initiatives will serve to find what the acceptable form factor is, what people want to grow in them. Lettuce is a good start, we’re knee deep in the stuff right now, as we take a phased approach using the shelves and angle the planks from the light to address the differing heights. For a family of two with $100 expended, we are eating fresh lettuce most days.


yep many vapourware and that’s as if should be, they serve as warnings from the past not visions for the future. It’s the acceptable form factor that interests me, I suspect that we are going to consider, at least in the cities, height not breadth. I think there is a simple beauty in watching the plants grow but that exposes the grow area to external forces. Spent the day yesterday chatting with the Boeing guys, yep they are all over this, about how to distribute the view from the interior without losing insulation. We, like all, are striving to condition and maintain the growth area in the most energy efficient manner, who better to chat to than the fine people that helped put people on the moon :slight_smile: Kind of fun really as we got to play on a little simulator that reproduces what needed to be done to bring Apollo 13 home buy reducing energy consumption in the capsule whilst maintaining the viable environment. I’m meeting up with the GE people soon to discuss their goals as regards their use of new materials in the whole heating cooling cycle and cost effectiveness. I’m hoping their research can go to arriving at cost effective heating and cooling system components that can end up on places like Amazon or Adafruit so they can be easily put together in the same way that many projects in the maker community are. I agree that mass production is the solution to aspects of production, I don’t see potato or corn in cities just yet :slight_smile: but I think there IS scope for us to address the container solution to populate unused space thus creating a nation of small shopkeepers ( just in time corner grocery) and a everyday learning experience, in apartments, for young and adults alike. That is the utility of the form factor in these rendering. I think we have to consider the behavior change caused by implementing such machines into a massive VOTING populace and what that would do to any green initiative. We are looking for jobs for kids now and this industry is one that is NEEDED to get moving quickly before things get really tricky. Idle hands and all that :slight_smile:


hey serein
nice but the metal worries me a smidge as does the glass front, hopefully GE’s work in newer materials and LG’s work in inexpensive cheap sheet screens will reduce the exposed surfaces and enable high levels of insulation whilst giving a view into the interior, which let’s face it, is most of the fun. We’re considering the utility of high resolution cameras for crop monitoring and live feed to augmented displays and web cams. So you can look into the container without exposing it needlessly to conditions that should have no effect on the grow area. Glass/plastic isn’t ideal as a thermal barrier. It seems that the biologists are happy bunnies when they can see the plants ( no s@#t sherlock) and that can be done across many wavelengths for pennies on the dollar. The sensor arrays are plummeting in price and will only get cheaper and more robust once the nano guys get their act together. Sadly a by product of responding to terrorist threats driving research, ah well war drives us forward I suppose ho hum.
thanks for the images they pretty much confirm that the fridge guys got it right, so this might be good to go in a vending machine situation in office blocks. Fresh produce on demand displacing junk food hmmm I wonder who’s looking at that as a business…


It’s called double and/or tipple pane glass. It has been used for decades in windows to help insulate homes. If you go to the grocery store and walk down the freezer isle you will see a great example of how well it works to insulate.

Again I read what you write and it just proves how little you know about actually growing anything hydroponically. I see people time and time again waste lots of time and money trying to solve problems that either don’t exist or are easily solved. They try and make things complicated, hard, and expensive because they just don’t know any better. I hate to see people waste all their time and energy like that. If they only built some hydroponic systems and actually spent some time growing some actual plants first, they would see how simple and easy it is to do successfully without wasting a fortune.

I say it again the “food Computer” idea will never be cost effective enough to be worth it to anyone who is interested in growing their plants to eat or sell. It’s nice to have a dream, but nobody cares about spending tons of money to grow very little food. That’s simply a show piece/novelty and waste of money.

Building an insulated box is cheap and easy to do, people do it all the time when they build their grow rooms. What isn’t always cheap is like I already outlined, heating and cooling them, as well as running artificial lighting. So it’s nice to hear at least you have some focus in that direction. However I don’t think you will ever be able to out compete the HVAC industry, as well as the appliance industry’s. Any new technology or ways to save energy costs will either be in those industries first first, or quickly incorporated into them ASAP.

The fact is most people who grow inside their homes/apartments don’t really need to worry about controlling the air and water temperatures much. Most plants grow very well at room temperatures (74-78 F) and even a little higher. If anything they usually just need to ventilate the room to get fresh air. But their are people who grow in basements, garages, and attics that don’t get HVAC air or just don’t want to heat/cool the entire room to grow a few plants. That’s when they build a insulated grow room and cool it with ventilation and/or a small window AC unit or swamp cooler. If they need to heat it they just use a small portable heater. The best way to heat and cool it all depends on their actual specific location (temps, humidity, etc. etc.)

Absolutely. I don’t know about recycling yards, I have never been to any looking around, though it sounds like a good idea. But I get some of the best items to make hydro systems out of the day before trash day that people are throwing out. I have even talked to the managers of restaurants and had them save me all their plastic 2-3-4-5 gallon buckets. You can build a hydroponic system out of just about anything as long as it’s not metal, though you can use metal as part of a support structure. Even wood can be water proofed to use in a hydroponic system. If you know what makes them work, what makes the six different types different, and just look around a bit you can build a hydroponic system practically for free.

The only items you really need to buy is the air and/or water pump, and vinyl or poly tubing. But those are all cheap and easy to find all over. Even the nutrients are cheap if you know where to look. Same with the growing media. Building hydroponic system is really easy and cheap to do. Even if you want to buy new parts to build the hydro system out of, it;s still quite cheap to do.

Hydroponic shops always try and get you to buy electronic pH and EC/TDS/PPM meters and make it sound like you will never be able to grow successfully without them. Not true, their simply not necessary in the slightest. You do need to check pH, but pH drops are under $10 and far better than the electronic meters. You don’t need the EC/TDS/PPM meters at all. I have been growing hydroponically since 2008 and have never even used one. Growing plants hydroponically and successfully doesn’t have to be expensive at all. If you know how hydroponic systems work and how to be cost effective, it’s down right cheap. It can even be cheaper than growing the plants in soil like it is for me.

I have known a lot of people that not only have grown more than they spent on their hydro systems, but also grow more than they can eat from them the first place and give it away. It’s a misconception that the only things you can grow hydroponically are pot and/or lettuce. I do like lettuce, but I have also hydroponically grown strawberries, tomatoes, tomitillos (Mexican green tomatoes), melons, snow peas, green beans, broccoli, peppers, chilies, radishes, green onions, and herbs (basil, sage, and mint). I grow everything cost effectively or I don’t grow it. I even have plans to grow corn and be able to harvest weekly. I also have plans to grow raspberries and blackberries. I even have designed a system to grow root crops like potato’s in a aeroponic system. That not only allows you to insulate the root system, but also provides easy and quick access to harvest the potatoes without disturbing the plant while it’s still growing.

Granted I grow everything outside in natural sunlight. I live in Arizona and we get tons of free sunlight. I also have a small house and don’t really have any room to grow inside. Even If I wanted to grow in the living room, nobody wants to look at the lights being on 18 hours a day. I can probably grow in the garage, but it gets hotter in there than outside most of the year (spring and summer months). My biggest problem is keeping the nutrient solution cool during the hot months, however I have worked out ways to do that cost effectively.

But even if I were to grow inside, I have figured out a way to use free sunlight to grow plants indoors as well using natural sunlight with solar tubes. Essentially it’s a skylight designed to collect sunlight and bring it to any room in the home through mirrored ducting. I could turn a walk in closet into a grow room using natural sunlight instead of artificial lighting. I could even build a insulated grow room outside or in the garage and use solar tubes to light it.

Growing plant and providing the right growing environment is simple and easy to do. Any child can do it.


Another one to grow funny tomatoes !



I was talking indoor, sorry… not everybody has space (I live in Hong Kong where 600sqf is a Big apartment).


Nice one :slight_smile: Loved the clip. Strangely you are in the part of the world which is being discussed as a test site. The idea is to consider all spaces as growth areas. The good people out of Singapore have some really interesting ideas when it comes to innovate use of adhoc materials. An example in Hong Kong might be the retasking of some of the parking spaces to growth areas. Remember the growth area would be conditioned space so you are not fighting the elements or pollution, if the growth space were climatically stabilized ( insulated) and the growth space optimized for the crop being grown then you are working only on that which you have to. So look forwards to container farms pretty soon in your neck of the woods, maybe even on the roof of your building.
In fact the good people from Singapore pointed this out to us might be of interest to you.


Rooftops: quite difficult. The few urban farms we have (less than 10) are using soil… a lot of rooftop are not accessible, starting with government ones. Same, you’ll see very few solar panels here.

Thanks for the conference. I learned about it last month…


I understand about the rooftops but we have to consider ALL available space to determine the boundaries of the system, what works what doesn’t. A goal is to same what kind of adaptable,economical,insulated growth area can we place where and what will it’s probable output capabilities be. That’s the one of the points of getting reliable telemetary from a small space ( farm computer) then seeing what it takes to scale it up to larger spaces, what materials do what, how does the growth medium work under different temps, water quality,even pressure ( coffee tastes better grown at altitude ) etc. Once you have some idea of the effects on an area you can find which bill of materials will be suit your budget and goals. Right now we have people growing lettuce out of gallon milk jugs with a cheap T5 light from home depot. The goal here is to get people thinking about this in offices ( yep they are growing there as well), school etc. It’s a system called Kratky ( see videos above) and is low maintenance.

Solar energy is market driven so the day it becomes economical to use it will be the day you see it grow like a weed, low oil prices ( and probably staying low for some time) aren’t going to help it’s case, ho hum… As to the conference, please try and attend there are some excellent speakers and Dr Nate Storey seems to have some interesting ideas, that may bear on your apartment space issue. He grows UP not sideways using grow towers, you could make one yourself ( just an example ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=663kBnFLBBM&list=PLbiYoiwgZY248_LGpNI872VHAWmZPxHm6


As a hydroponic grower also, I would urge you to reconsider your ideals on TDS and pH, both of these pieces of information are invaluable, and should be measured as often as possible. TDS and pH should first be measured when evaluating your water source for any: hydroponic, coco, aeroponic, or soil grow. In the best of circumstances a reverse osmosis system should be used to to get your PPM down to an acceptable baseline, but I have seen many water sources where it was not needed (without this measurement you are flying blind). Without getting your baseline PPMs at an acceptable measurement you will be robbing crops of valuable available nutrients before you even start. The advantage a PPM measurement gives during the growth cycle is a window into how effectively the plant is up-taking nutrients, and how much nutrient solution should be added to the system. Without this piece of information the grower is simply taking guesses on how much solution should be added to the reservoirs and may be inadvertently locking out nutrients.

PH is the other variable in this equation, as you well know pH is the driving factor for nutrient uptake into the root system. In order to determine how much acid is needed an initial measurement of the water source should be taken, and of course measurements as the pH is adjusted. For the systems I have built the electronic pH meters have been a great value. The value add the electronic meter brings is repeatability, with the advent of newer pH meters with less requirements for recalibration a constant stream of pH data is not only inexpensive and accurate, but imperative to optimizing and notifying when a problem arises. A hydroponic grow can turn south rather quickly if the pH of the system fall out of balance the sooner the problem can be identified the less stress on the plant. Creating a hydroponic system that just grows is not a hard task, but for the low cost of sensors there is no reason not to have an optimized hydroponic system.


This baby is sitting in my living room until I finish it :sunglasses:


OUTSTANDING! I wish you well with your enterprise. If you get a chance swing by that conference to chat with the speakers. I’m betting that they would be very encouraging AND, more practically, might be able to help you get some components to finish this off. Many labs have parts they don’t know what to do with and sometimes just give them away. The speakers are the people with the contacts in the universities. Never hurts to ask. Remember their mandate is to educate and stimulate. WELL DONE.


Nice discussion guys, in my opinion you are both right since the cost effective part is important but also the self-feed-capacite-skills is important. I’m now 10 years experience in the greenhouse industrie and in my opinion it survives because so far is the best option that exists, however in energy use is completely inefficient, except for the closed greenhouses, but the investment is huge € 1,5 million Euro/hectare just for the greenhouse an equipment and still you have to move the product al over the world producing huge amount of contaminants and in my opinion the worst of all monopolizing the food producing.
The PFC initiative in my opinion gives who is interesting the tools to start learning about producing their own healthy food in order to escale it eventually to a food server and become independent in at least vegetables fruits and some grains. The thing of making it cost effective will depended on each one, since each area have their own problems/advantages.


Regarding the temperature control, besides geothermal energy, it is also possible to give a peek to developments presented by participants in the solar decathlon contest (solardecathlon.gov). Eventhough that contest is focused on housing, the aim is similar: temperature control in a space.


It appears the cooling aspects for PFC v2.0 has not yet been determined. The Build of Material for version 2.0.0-beta2 that was posted 4 days ago does yet not list a part number. The description lists a “Kipp Kitt Chiller Compressor” but when visiting the manufacturer website, the price is prohibitively expensive (USD $5,000). Thus, I believe that they are still looking to source a small footprint chiller (which apparently is is challenging).


thanks for bringing up this conversation. I think it’s critical to have critical voices - especially from those with a strong background in growing hydroponically. I concur with @135711 - both aspects are important.


For folks who haven’t seen this stuff, more information about cooling for the PFC v2 design is available now:

  • Jake’s forum post on 6 Jan 2017, “OpenAg™ Personal Food Computer v2.0 (beta) [Documentation Release]”, mentions that:

    The Chiller Unit is being made by an awesome maker named Kipp who has been experimenting and innovating on small scale DC chiller units for a few years (among doing many other awesome things). He has been helping us achieve 200-300W of cooling so we can more precisely control the temperature in the food computer chamber in an energy efficient way (compressor based instead of thermoelectric cooler based). He is currently in the process of scaling up his operation to make this unit more accessible. This unit is interesting because while many plants will grow fine in ambient environments, being able to actively control the temperature and go beyond the ambient temperature range is a key feature for the personal food computer to be a precision agriculture device. If you want a very near term solution, mini fridges / freezers and water coolers also have to solve a similar cooling problem.

  • On GitHub, the OpenAgInitiative/openag_pfc2 repository has design documents and build instructions including:
    - The main build instructions document
    - Build instructions for the chiller sub assembly including a photo of the chiller unit
    - Sub Assembly bill of materials including a "Chiller Assembly " tab


This Compressor based Aquarium Chiller seems like it would work well at a reasonable price - except it won’t fit in the food computer frame.

Building, growing and designing in Riggi's "garden"