Every second time I hear anyone, especially Bruce Sterling, talk about backyard-farming the always seem to be complaining about what hard work it is… which I don’t entirely get, unless you’re growing acres of something… if you’re just pottering about in your backyard then it’s not really that hard is it? I mean old people do that all the time, and old people are some of the laziest people I know. A lot of them actually retire completely.
Still, there do seem to be these recurrent ripples of interest and enthusiasm for automated gardening, and I do find the concept quite intriguing… and have even set up a tube system to I can water my high-rise strawberry farm in one hit… but you know? half of the fun of doing this stuff is that it’s hands-on… it’s in doing stuff yourself. I LIKE watering my plants… so the only good reason I can see (maybe) for automated gardening is to stop yourself cocking it up, and accidentally killing your plants.
So anyway, appropos of very little, here’s a smallish collection of automated gardening systems.
That photie at the top looks well cool – like a spaceship for caterpillars or something. It is A Volksgarden from OmegaGarden.com… fairly large hydro/aero-ponic system that rotates the plants around a central LED column – using less energy (they claim) than traditional – grow-in-tray hydroponic systems, but more than if you just go out and plant the things in the dirt presumably… unless you count your own energy which is spent scurrying round on all-fours, eating bugs.
They also claim that the plants actually like being rotated against gravity all the time like that, and grow bigger as a result. Who knows. Have to try it I suppose. They only rotate once every 45 minutes or something… I wonder if you make a hamster-powered version.
They grow 5 times faster than in dirt… and besides, dirt is like… dirty. Is that what all this is about? Fear of dirt etc? Probably. They have pre-seeded ‘plug-and-grow’ pods so you don’t have to physically touch the seeds either.
Ok…. off to Arduino-Land… a Garduino… one of those things that you have to build just because it’s got a great name etc.
Has the geek factor; doesn’t have the techboy-jackdaw shiney shiney factor… and lets face it, what we really want is some sort of autonomous droid that potters about watering things and eliminating aphids and wants to be our friend and thinks we’re great etc. That’s all we want. Is that too much to ask?
But they haven’t been invented yet… so lastly and possibly leastly – certainly most cheaply (apart from (as I say, just sticking seeds in the dirt) is this…
a Powerplant… another little desktop aeroponics (as far as I can tell) system… which is a bit like a potplant pot that you have to leave plugged in all the time, like you do with all your battery chargers and TV etc. A snip at 30 something quid, and Firebox appear to have sold out of them. There are variants all over the place actually – a load on youtube.
I must learn how to do this actually – maybe knock something up on Ponoko. Apparently you need a nebulizer. Sounds like the sort of thing Dr Who would have back in the 70s when nothing had really been invented yet.