Modular Hydroponic Farming

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Tomato experiment

No room for growing tomatoes inside, so I am building a small dutch bucket hydro system outside. Buried the reservoir and ran electrical out there as well. It very windy here at times, not to mention the potential for having sub freezing overnight lows. Also, I don’t have an ideal sunny spot for them either, but I am gonny try anyway, I need the experience. Will try to keep you updated down the road.



hydroponic tomatoes


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My prototype building site

As time grows on, I have been working on my software, trying to grow tomatoes (more on that later), and other little things around my daily life. I am trying to enjoy some spare time as well knowing that my prototype build stage is looming closer. I am really looking forward to working on it. It’s is gonna take a lot of $$ to build, but I plan to start with a guesstimate of a budget, a very LARGE budget, and try to stick with it. Of course there will be some one-time overhead for tools and other things that I need to set aside. And time…. well I am gonna try and remain a one man band on this and just get help when I need it, cause I do have time.

So, I have a friend who is currently renovating an old building near downtown SLC. It used to be a pet boarding and grooming business. He has a corporate photography business and is moving in. He is only a month or two out from moving in, and has been generous enough to let me build in the corner of his backyard. It is level area in the back that will eventually a large parking lot. I went down the other day to check it out:

in the far corner

in the far corner

side parking

side lot



rear building

rear of building

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Tennessee visit

When my father came to visit me last summer from Tennessee, he was very interested with what I had built. He told me that he was going to build one for himself. I thought it was a great idea since he is recently retired and has some time on his hands. He is a foodie, so I guess he can appreciate the idea of grabbing what he needs whens it still “on the vine”. It took hime a couple months to figure things out, how and what, etc. He doesn’t have a lot of room in his house, so he built it in his crawlspace. He knew there might be pests down there so he built an enclosure for it with flexiglass panels. He did a great job. Last time I was there in April, like all other visits, he takes me down there to check things out (and of course get a few things for dinner).

Since he finished it, he loves to give out his loot as gifts for parties. His unique signature, tied with a label reading “Steve’s Leaves”.

Dad's hydroponic farm

Dad’s hydroponic farm

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Some Android screens (50% done)

I think most of the harder features are completed for a base version, but I still have at least another month finishing the Android project. Haven’t written pure Java code since college. But I am now at a point where I feel I write any sort of Android app. After I finish this, I will move on to iOS and duplicate the look / functions for Apple users. Enjoy…





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first 2014 update

Happy 2014…   I’ve been trotting along off and on.  I haven’t had time to figure another solution to my previous post but have been figuring out other things.

One..I have found a spot to build my first full size prototype.  A friend of mine recently bought a commercial building and is letting me build it in the back lot. It is getting a remodel so the site won’t be ready for me until mid late spring.  Great location though, near downtown SLC just a block west of I-15.  There is a lot of things I can do until then.

Second, I am working on designing a part for interfacing the seedling into the channel and locking it in without the need of net pots and pebbles.  I am still in the early stages with that but my neighbor has a 3d printer at his shop so I hoping I can get some of that.

Third.. I am building an Android version of my app.  The windows phone version is great and very basic but I have to accommodate apps for the big one (iOS) and two (Android).  Haven’t started the iOS yet, but the Android version is coming along well.  That has been the most of my focus up until now.

Probably more of the same for the next month or so…  I will post some screenshots soon as well anything else I have mentioned.

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Experimental failure on the wicking method. The rope wicked up the solution but it wasnt enough to soak up into the chamois. Even if the chamois worked out, the oasis cube slab wouldn’t have pulled up enough. Back to basics for now. Will probably try some sort of mini pump or siphon / drain solution when i have more time.

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Watering Hole

I am bad at watering the nursery. Some days I put too much in, some others days I forget and they are starting to dry up. I know I could do a lot better. The babies are suffering. I read all the time that the key to a healthy plant starts with a healthy seedling. I know this, BUT, I always get anxious and prematurely put these seedlings in the main system way too early. Sometimes they barely have a root showing but I still do it… and getting them back on their fast growing pace take more time than it should. If I spend the time to do it right, I could cut at least a week out of my harvest times.

I need consistent watering.. maybe self-watering. i looked online and found some overpriced systems as well as a couple of solutions on youtube. I combined some ideas and came up with something. Here’s what I did with a trip to Home depot for $25 bucks and 45 minutes of time:

Bought a 10 gallon (opaque) rubbermaid tote, cotton clothesline rope (1/4 inch), chamois towels, and some more std sized nursery trays.


The lid to the tote is ALMOST long enough to accomodate the tray laying flat/flush on the top, so I had to cut a little out in the lid to get it to lay flat. Then, I drilled the holes first. Through the tray and lid in the same instance in the pattern here:

Cut the rope in approximately 3ft segments. You will need 9 of them. Then extract the synthetic filler from the woven cotton weave shell. Discard the filler.

Thread all 9 ropes through tray and lid in this pattern:

Trim the ends of the ropes (wicks) to just rest on the bottom of the reservoir when the lid is on. Line the chamois cloth on top of the tray on the ropes:


At this point you probably know what I am doing. The ropes (wicks) will pull the water in the reservoir up into the tray. The chamois cloth will pull it in as well. Then the seedling slab rests directly on the chamois and pulls in the water to the rockwool or whatever you use. It will constantly pull more water up as needed from the reservoir until the water/nutrient solution needs to be replenished which would be at least 2 weeks. Voila! No more watering the nursery everyday. I am setting it up this week and will let you know if it is going to work.