Growing microgreens is fun! There are a few repetitive tasks, but if you want to grow consistent crops, repetition is the key.
Whenever there are repetitive tasks, automation is a viable option. Not only does it create high levels of repeatability, it also frees up manpower, leaving your more time to complete other things.
In my past I spent my time doing industrial automation, programming machines and the like. Many years involved in design engineering offices being part of a team that build things and then automate them. So automating our grow room felt like the natural thing to do, and also very enjoyable, being able to tinker at my own pace and slowly get things right.
Time to automate?
After we built our grow room, balanced growlights and fans were the first things installed. These lent themselves to being automated. We linked in with a R&D project being done by ENESYS that I was fortunate to be a part of, through them we obtained a prototype CLAM. (An IoT microprocessor with hardware control ability, this is part of their CubeLink suite). With the newly acquired CLAM and some additional bits and pieces, the lights and fans were very quickly programmed to come on and off daily at preset times. This had an immediate impact for us. No more getting up early to turn on the lights, or worse, forgetting to turn them off! Our precious microgreens were now getting consistent hours of dark and light. (As well a nice breeze!).
Next up was monitoring room temperature and humidity, easy achieved with more parts added to the CLAM and some programming. Of course, we now wanted to see the values, and remotely too! First up we got our CLAM to WiFi onto our network. Next it was linked to the custom ENESYS server we could monitor remotely, allowing us to see the temperature and humidity at will. At the same time this new found connectivity allowed us to adjust fan and light times online without needing to reprogram our controller each time. It was a simple system, but it did actually free us up a bit and certainly gave us added visibility into our grow rooms status.
Temperature and water anyone?
As the season changed our need for temperature control was obvious and we installed an Air Conditioner. This was a stand alone unit that ran constantly. After many weeks of setbacks I finally got our CLAM to mimic the AC remote and we can now control the AC. Was a great win, reducing its run time and keeping more accurate temperature at the same time. (As well as some primitive humidity control).
Watering was our next logical target. We installed a quality pump and plumbed in a watering system to one of our racks. More CLAM hardware and software upgrades…. end result, we can now adjust automated watering times online. Of course there was much wetting of me during the learning process!
Is our grow room fully automated? Not yet. It’s an ongoing interest. But each time we do something it gets a little bit closer and we learn a little bit more. Ideally we want to get it to a stage where we can reproduce a fully automated grow rack!
So, what’s next? Well I’ve got my eye on a nice CO2 meter to add to the CLAM, be great to monitor our CO2 and in turn control it.
P.S. If you have any questions about our system, fire away! Always happy to chat.