Autoponics Update: The Surreality of (Hacker)Space Farming

If you haven’t been by the space lately, you are missing out on the future! The future that is robotic farming, aka Autoponics.

I remember Daniel Z talking about this idea over a year ago and it is now a growing concern, quite literally. A grant from CU was quite motivating to make the Autoponics vision finally become a reality. Literal physical seeds were planted in early March, and it only takes a glance to tell the project is a success.

As we watch the plants reach up and out – tomatoes smothering their chive neighbors, zucchini blatantly ignoring its flourescent ceiling, lettuce bushing out healthily – it’s becoming difficult to see the matrix for the plants. The skeletal system includes 1/2 inch spray lines for irrigation contained within 4 inch diameter PVC pipes for housing, holes for small pots with growing medium for the plants. Water circulates via a pump and fluorescents provide light. While the team members had begun working on implementing an RGBD (“D” for depth) using the Microsoft Kinect and Asus Xtion Pro structured light sensors, the resolution was just not good enough to capture the level of detail they were after. So, they moved on to using a high resolution webcam for visual data and a laser scanner to reproduce the contours of the plant as a 3D point cloud. The monitoring system which will judge the plants’ needs, identify growth stages, and alert the team through a web interface when the plants are ready to harvest.

The group set up a special website where you can find more info and watch the plants grow from the comfort of your laptop via a live webcam (the webcam is presently unavailable due to exceeding bandwidth – hope to be back online soon). Or even better, drop by the space on a Tuesday evening or a Sunday afternoon, when the team, which includes Daniel Z, Todd, Peter, Ben and a few others, gathers to augment and improve the setup. (Check with our Google Group or Daniel for time on Sunday.)

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