Geeks Have Projects #1 : Hydroponics

That’s their defining characteristic… still the greatest thing written about geeks, ever.


So… picking up the pieces, figuring out what to do next.

Geeks have projects.

#1 : Hydro/aqua-ponics

I want to do interior-decor for spaceships… and that involves closed-system micro-biospheres. Silent Running. I quite like the look of those rotating tumbler ones, with the light in the middle…

Which is like The Matrix for plants

… but first I need to get a single seedling to sprout. That hasn’t happened yet… but then again, it’s only been 3 days. I’m attempting to grow chillis.

I think the trouble with these systems is that they’re not really photogenic enough for people to have sitting round the house… and I’m not entirely sure that “not using natural light” is a terribly good idea – although it does have advantages in terms of not-blocking-your-window-space, and uniformity-of-climate… which means that “arduino-plant-growing-software” can will work anywhere, regardless of climate.

Because I’m interested in that as well… crowd-sourced plant-growing-wisdom… which has this weird effect of shifting natural-selection from the plants, to their environment. Different experiments with “how to get stuff to grow” becomes something that can be entirely software-controlled, and aggregated globally.

But first I have to get a seedling to grow.

I’ve bought a starter hydroponics-kit. Outrageously expensive for what it is (an aquarium pump and some plastic pipes… some chemicals…)… but I figured it’s probably best to start with trainer-wheels, as it were. Start with a professionally built benchmark, that I know works.

The first thing I’m going to do is to chop it in half and stack it vertically, so the water runs backwards and forwards down the sections like a rube-goldeberg machine. It’s taking up too much space as it is. Longer term, I’m going to make it into a kit/BOM that’s a whole lot more photogenic. Something that you’d actually want in your Contemporary Urban Living Space. Something modular. Something like tetris.

I also quite like the idea of having separate units, each with their own micro-climates, so it’s possibly to do that whole genetic-algorithm thing… breed/cull the environments rather than the plants. Needs to be a fairly high turnover species to do this though I suspect. I’m experimenting with moss at the moment to this end… but moss has turned out to be quite a slow grower.

The reason I’m doing this is that I attempted to make a laser-cut moss farm… using the moss-graffiti recipes from the internets…

… which wound up killing the moss stone-dead.

A month later, and all that’s developed are successive waves of mildew. So time to experiment… 3 little plantations: dirt+roots intact; dirt+roots mangled up a bit; dirt rinsed out, mangled up a bit. A week later and they’re all looking quite healthy… although only the intact one has the “solid” look that I’m after. I think they’ll all do ok… although the first two kindof have more to work with dirt-wise. After a month or so you start getting “new moss shoots” coming through… although it’s too early to tell with these yet. Only a week or so old.

Why moss?

I like moss.

4 Comments » for Geeks Have Projects #1 : Hydroponics
  1. jason kelly says:

    super cool. I bought these guys as my starter kit – – though it was a couple years ago and an older model. They don’t need a pump, its gravity driven. I also got an indoor LED grow light which the plants love but I agree it’s not very aesthetically appealing. keep posting as you get more stuff setup, I’d love to see it.

  2. Nick Taylor says:

    I looked at a gravity-fed one… significantly more cost-effective, but further up the track, I’m intending to add fish… which requires a pump to cycle the water.

    And fish I suppose. Still… some of the seedlings sprouted today. That’s a start :)

  3. Patrick says:

    I set up an aquaponics system from recycled materials (sounds better than scavenged) about five months ago and it is still burbling away happily in my back garden, chucking out veg. I was amazed at how easy it was to get up and running

    just after setup –
    a couple of weeks ago –

    I found that once it was up and running I would spend about half an hour a day just listening to and watching the system flood and drain. Very hypnotising.

    Welcome to an extremely rewarding hobby.

  4. Nick Taylor says:

    Cool – is that aquaponics in the sense that fish are part of the system?

    I’m quite into the whole (semi) closed-loop thing :)

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