Food-producing computers

Biogrid has created two prototypes of a modular plant growing machine equipped with LED control and environmental sensors. The machines provide the plants with water and nutrients as a fine mist, a technique known as aeroponics. Light is provided with high-power red and blue LEDs.

The purpose of the prototypes is to generate real environmental sensor readings and to demonstrate actuator controls. The initial sensors are humidity, temperature and CO2 in the leaf zone, as well as pH and EC in the nutrient solution. Various microcontroller configurations have been tested, including the Particle Photon and the incredible ESP8266.

Much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that MIT has been working on very similar project, the open source Food Computer, which was just recently released to the public.

The point of building plant growing machines (or food computers) is to be able to experiment with different growing recipes in fully controlled environments. And for people interested in the Internet of Things, such machines are the perfect testing environment for machine learning, data visualization, monitoring, and control. 

On Vertical Farming

Our planet is experiencing a steadily growing population. By 2050, we will be more than 9 billion people, and more than 70% will live in cities.

To keep up with the population growth, we need to invent new and improved ways to produce food. Food production should be cost-effective, climate-independent, resource efficient, and the crops should require little transportation.

Vertical farming is an example of a new and promising way to produce food. Vertical farming allows vegetables to be grown in a fully controlled and structured environment so that all aspects of plant growth can be monitored and optimized.

Successful vertical farming is dependent on innovative new technologies that combine knowledge of plant physiology with electronics and cloud computing. In other words, successful vertical farming is dependent on a solid Internet of Things platform with specific applications targeted at agriculture. That’s why Biogrid’s first application, built on top of the Biogrid Cortex platform, is specifically targeted towards vertical farms.