Abstract

AutoGreens seeks to automate the microgreen growing and harvesting process. The project combines software and hardware components to achieve this goal. Microgreens are a class of vegetable greens known for their short growing time of about seven to fourteen days until harvest. These highly nutritious plants, although only around two inches tall upon harvest, contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts (Xiao, Lester, Luo, & Wang, 2012). Growing plants can be time consuming and difficult for the untrained hand, thus AutoGreens seeks to automate the process by utilizing sensors and cameras to optimize growing conditions and make harvesting decisions with minimal interference from the user. We propose that our device could help increase accessibility to healthy food options (i.e. microgreens), especially in food deserts, and help reduce the current health problems in America.

The project can be broken down into the hardware and software components. The growing tray design is inspired by a micropipette tip box; each seed grows in elements of the array (refer to Figure 1 in IV. Technical Description) and grows straight up. This design spaces seeds uniformly across a tray to prevent entanglement while still ensuring a compact space. The seeds grow on and extend roots into a biomaterial base into which a drip irrigation system will dispense water. A 3D printer frame moves the growing tray up and down, positions the harvesting blade down to an appropriate level for plant harvesting, and moves the harvesting blade around in the tray to cut the plants. We have designed the first prototype of the harvesting blade using a DC motor and a laser-cut acrylic blade with blunt edges to avoid safety issues. The 3D printer frame houses an Intel RealSense depth and RGB camera that can be used with a Raspberry Pi to determine when the microgreens are ready to be harvested based on their height and color.

4-Minute Presentation

Google Slides link:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1YwgPuJcOwCKNtOldRqtSp6sxqWwg1vPgAugyVtkM0LM/edit?usp=sharing

Video Demos

3D printer control and x-y movement: https://youtu.be/5zTE_ebv5Po
3D printer control and up-down movement: https://youtu.be/4VIFyev7S8Q
Harvesting blade: https://youtu.be/Phw5iOws-C4

References

Linck L. (2013). Benefits and statistics about eating healthfully detailed. Kansas State University. Retrieved from https://www.k-state.edu/today/announcement/?id=8989

Lufkin, Bryan. (2017). 10 Grand Challenges We'll Face by 2050. BBC Future, BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170713-what-will-the-challenges-of-2050-be

Ver Ploeg M, Nulph D, Williams R. (2011). Mapping Food Deserts in the United States. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2011/december/data-feature-mapping-food-deserts-in-the-us/

Xiao Z, Lester GE, Luo Y, Wang Q. (2012). Assessment of vitamin and carotenoid concentrations of emerging food products: edible microgreens. J Agric Food Chem, 60(31), 7644-51.

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