Growing up in families that went to the Farmer’s Market every weekend, we had hands-on experience with the benefits of such a community — for buyers and farmers. Families are able to sustain their farms solely off of these purchases while people get access to fresh and typically healthier food. Through the Farmoid, we aim to strengthen this community.
As the climate worsens, we are getting shorter on two critical resources: food and water. The United Nations (UN) warns that by 2050, the world will no longer be able to produce enough food to meet global demand. Additionally, the World Health Organization reports that by 2050, half of the world will be facing the effects of water shortages. These water shortages can largely be attributed to the agricultural sector. According to the World Bank, 70% of all freshwater withdrawals are used in agricultural systems with a whopping 40% lost due to overwatering, poor water management systems, and evaporation specifically in small farms that don’t have access to water-conserving technology. The United States plays a pivotal role by exporting food to 174 countries. Small farms are responsible for 30% of US food production and typically produce healthier food. Unfortunately, the United Nations reports that small farmers typically don’t have the education/ resources to adapt to their farm’s environment, causing them to follow general farming guidelines and overwater/ over-fertilize their crops.
What it does
Farmoid provides these small farmers with customized feedback from sensor readings to inform them how much fertilizer to add if a crop’s nutrient level is low and how to lower/increase their crops’ temperature. Farmoid’s sensors are automatically connected to watering systems (drip irrigation, sprinklers), so at a set time every morning, watering systems will automatically supply plants with the required amounts of water, reducing water wasted from overwatering. We focus on moisture, fertilizer, and temperature as they are the three leading causes of crop failure.
How we built it
The Capacitive Soil Moisture Sensor v1.2 sensor will measure soil moisture level and temperature. The RS485 measures the three soil macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We utilized ESP8266 to connect the sensors to the web database via the farmer’s WiFi network (75% of small farmers have internet access), perform calculations, send raw data to the database, and then calculate appropriate thresholds. The sensors are held together in a waterproof box we 3D-printed at home. The thresholds of appropriate plant conditions are extracted from a Typescript Express server that lists users and their respective plants in two tables within our PostgreSQL database. Using Prisma as an ORM to access the data, we compare sensor readings with the optimal amounts to provide user feedback. At the interface level, Farmoid’s mobile app (for iPhones and Androids) uses React Native, while its authentication system uses Firebase Auth.
Challenges we ran into
For us, there were a few main challenges. First was actually finding a nutrient sensor that would be cheap enough for our parents to let us buy. While moisture sensors are relatively cheap, nutrient sensors online are typically extremely expensive, ranging from $30-$100. It took a lot of research for us to find a sensor limited to only the three macronutrients and accordingly find a sensor we could use that was available in stores. The second was finding a way to connect the sensors to the internet. We had two options: either BlueTooth or WiFi. We had to actually experiment with both, but BlueTooth turned out to be much harder to work with. Luckily, we were able to find the ESP8266 (which connects to WiFi), which is used in the final product. The third was the integration of the hardware and software (i.e. adding the sensor readings to the database). We had previous experience with software and hardware separately, but not the integration of the two. Last, we were new to PostgreSQL and had a hard time getting the database to work with the app itself. We also ran into some issues with Firebase (authentication token not resolving). We had to do some research and read into the Firebase documentation to resolve the problem.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're honestly really surprised that we were able to get this much done. Going into the hackathon, we knew the goal we set for ourselves was extremely high, and reaching that goal meant we would have to code for hours at end. But, at the end, we created a product that we are so so proud of. This hackathon has honestly taught us how much potential we have as a team, and we will continue to challenge ourselves in the future.
What we learned
Our most important lesson was to set high goals because if we are motivated to accomplish something, we can push ourselves to reach that goal. This has definitely been the fastest we've worked on an app, namely because we coded for hours on end, but we're really proud of ourselves for reaching this point. We've also gotten a lot more familiar with connecting hardware and software (i.e. getting the sensor readings into our database), an area we didn't have much experience with before. But, our struggle in this area has helped us gain so much more knowledge about it!
What's next for Farmoid
Farmoid actually has the potential to be a product that we sell to small farmers, so we might do some market testing to see if small farmers would be interested in using it. If they are, we would actually like to use the prize money as seed funding to help Farmoid grow into a company.