A majority of food sold in cities nowadays is processed, prepackaged, or frozen, laden with preservatives. There is hence a growing demand for organic, natural, pesticide-free, GMO-free foods. "Organic" foods at supermarkets, etc. are often the costlier alternative to conventional food items. A mass distributable solution needs to be implemented which can give people all the right components in a single unit to be able to grow their own food (to an extent).
What it does
The team has implemented a system named AutoFarm which gives users the ability to manage the growth of their plants within their homes. It uses Amazon's Echo to provide an interface to communicate with the system that physically manages features such as watering plants, adding fertilizer/soil, providing light (via LED). This system will be employed on a vertical farming grid. These grids are light, portable, and can house several plants, be mounted on a wall or a shelf.
How we built it
The prototype consists of a Raspberry pi connected to LEDs (visualize system functions), a buzzer (to alert the user), and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD Display (displays buttons) (User Interface 1). All the source code is loaded onto a micro SD card housed in the pi. The Amazon Echo (User Interface 2) is the audio interface which the user communicates with to perform tasks: "Turn on the lights", "Turn on the watering", "Exit" .
A breadboard was used to wire connections between the pi and electronic components. Raspbian was used to configure most of the source code for the Alexa skill which the Echo uses to communicate with the user. The touchscreen was configured on Linux and the GUI programmed using Python. The number of active ports on the pi were increasing as we kept adding devices. A voice command activates all ports, which then await a signal which is either high or low, and the command is accordingly executed.
Challenges we ran into
Auto-starting the raspberry pi, with the application Inflexible Python GUI and buttons Finding a problem statement when you're halfway done with your prototype. The Raspberry Pi's physical design - guess we're using a HDMI cable Finding cables, one of the members had to pawn his hat for a micro-USB cable Unavailability of motor which prevented us from building a micro-irrigation system
What's next for Autofarm
If funded, AutoFarm will reach out to and license its service to organizations, companies which are involved in the home-based vertical farming business. The team aspires to fully automate the process with IOT enabled sensors capable of determining moisture content/need, amount of light required, and measure soil nutrients. In the meantime, an app would be developed which would allow users to keep track of the progress on their crops.