Urban Agriculturethe cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil
Growing Plants via a More Traditional Hydroponics System:
We have a very traditional ebb and flow hydroponics system set up in third floor of the biological sciences atrium. Currently, we are growing chard, beans, and basil (feel free to stop by the system whenever and trim the basil!). During our weekly meetings, we add more water and nutrient solution to the system if necessary, check the pH of the water, and trim plants. At all times, we plan on having at least one of these systems going, as they are cheap and relatively easy to maintain. If we have extra funding at the end of the summer, we plan on spending it on more supplies for making more traditional systems.
Creating the Food Computer:
We are building our own “food computer”, which is inspired by the design of MIT’s Open Agriculture Initiative. This device will have a hydroponics system inside an insulated enclosure. In this enclosure, various sensors will be able to detect light levels, humidity, pH, nutrient levels, temperature and a few other factors. The system will then be able to respond the detected factors by adjusting the levels of each variable until they reach the desired amount. This is really cool, as will hopefully allow us to imitate the climates of foods we cannot normally grow in Evanston, which will allow us to grow fresh, unusual foods. At the moment, we have almost all the electronics finished and am planning on hopefully finishing the mechanical side by the start of the summer. I will be here over the summer and plan on coding the system in my free time so that at the start of next year, we can begin using the Food Computer. In the upcoming year, we also plan on creating an original pH regulator, as we have a sensor for the system that detects the pH but no way to regulate it.
Designing and Building a Tub Aquaponics System:
This idea is still in the making, as we are just beginning to look into the area of aquaponics. In hydroponics, the plants gain their nutrients from specific nutrient solutions we add to the water. However, for aquaponics, we have a separate tub with fish whose waste will be able to act as nutrients for the plants growing in separate tub. This is somewhat of a win-win situation, as the extracted waste will benefit the plants while also cleaning the tub with the fish. One of our members lives in a house with a bath tub in the front yard, and our goal is to transform this tub into an aquaponics system. We have just started looking into possible designs for the system. Over the summer, a few members and I are planning on weekly meetings to design the aquaponics system and buy the necessary parts. – Tyler Lazar , PM