My major project is to continue the hydroponics automation project started this year as well as to develop new techniques to grow plants that can be implemented in the space at the elab. My secondary would be the NASA Ames and a tertiary would be getting my amateur radio license.
Introduction and Goals
The idea behind hydroponics is to reduce the space and resources needed to grow a variety of plants in any area. The Hydroponics project started as an extension to the sustainable housing project as sustainable growth is just one caveat of sustainable living This semester I was tasked with re-establishing the vertical installation using the same pump from last year. This was successful, so for next semester, I wish to implement a new type of growing method based on a drip system that would alleviate the problems of the previous system. For the other projects, I would like to have my license by the end of next semester as well as having a competitive submission for the February deadline.
Planning and Implementation
The implementation of the hydroponics was the same as last year but having all the parts together allowed me to immediately get the project off the ground. Following the mantra of flood and drain gave me the idea to put the pump on a timer that filled the container with water and drained it at specific intervals. This allowed for exceptional aeration of the roots preventing any form of rot. In order for plants to survive they need nutrients and in order for me to grow them I had to do research into dissolvable fertilizers also looking into Boeing’s research into hydroponics microgravity as well as the UH professor Kratky’s work on this method of growing plants. The majority of the setup was done the previous year however it did require a fair bit of cleaning and reconfiguration to build a overflow migration system and a larger reservoir for new plants.
Challenges and Next Steps
The Hydroponics project faced and still faces many challenges. The most problematic being that if the pump were to shut off unexpectedly then the plants will likely die if the user is not vigilant. Other challenges include not having enough seedlings to have a decent harvest, one or two plants becoming extremely large(mint) and covering the other plants prevent sunlight from reaching them, algal bloom that occurs when fertilizer is added to the reservoir that could clog the pump and insects or pests that feed off the plants. This semester we had a successful harvest with a few plants that will bloom in a few weeks into December. Also, the instruments for the drip system has been collected and are mostly ready to go. The future for the project entails the setup of the drip systems and fully automating the project. Throughout the semester I began to understand the intricacies that involve hydroponics, how to tie parachute cord to hold up large cucumbers, how to properly trim and make use of excess mint and basil and bring plants back from the brink of death with fertilizer.
The flourishing of the mint and basil plant that eventually led to severe overgrowth
The cucumber plants and their first flowers.
The outflow system of for the flood and drain system
The first crop of plants that went into the system
The humble seedlings that set this project in motion
Seedlings and Fertilizer- Phosphate based fertilizer and seedlings that either germinate at the elab or were purchased from Ace
Recycled Tubing- Provided a method of transport from the pump to the reservoir and tray.
Pump: The same pump used in the vertical system last year is the foundation of this format of growth.