About this project
Converse with your plants
Ever wonder how your plants are feeling? Maybe you’ve always wanted to grow your own thriving garden full of flowers and vegetables, but didn’t know where to start? Well now there’s hope!
Bitponics is your shortcut to a green thumb. It’s designed to be an add-on to any existing hydroponics system, and it will simplify and automate your growing process. Once you tell it what you’re trying to grow, it will use a database of knowledge built up by the community to create a “growing plan” for you. Bitponics will automate anything that can be controlled by a power outlet, like water pumps and lights. No more need for a bunch of bulky mechanical timers crowding your power strip! For things we can’t automate (like flushing and refilling your reservoir), we’ll remind you by whatever means you choose: email, text, or in-app notifications. Our plug and play solution is designed to be as simple as possible to set up and won’t require a bunch of technical know-how.
Hydroponics is an innovative approach that’s ideal for environments where plants can’t normally grow, like apartments and harsh climates. It’s basically any method of growing plants without soil, and instead providing nutrients directly to the roots with a nutrient solution. The root systems don’t need to reach as far, so more plants can be grown in the same amount of space. But because you’re essentially creating the entire growing environment, it has a steeper learning curve compared to traditional soil gardening.
Our goal with Bitponics is to allow more people to grow plants, no matter where they are or how much experience they have. We want to make hydroponic gardening easy for everyone.
How will it work?
Bitponics is made up of two parts: a sensor device and your online account. Once you sign up, you enter in the details of what you’re growing and the type of hydroponic system you have. The next step is to generate a growing plan: Bitponics can either create one for you or you can create your own. The growing plan is the step-by-step roadmap for how to take care of your plants. It will tell you:
- How many hours of light your plants need per day
- When to change the lighting schedule (for example, when your plants are ready for their flowering phase, we’d switch the lights to a 12-hour cycle)
- What pH range is safe for your plants
- When to replace your nutrient solution
- What balance of nutrients to use for each growing phase
- How often to run your water pumps
The Bitponics device will collect readings from its sensors and log them to your online account. You can also manually log data and even upload photos to track progress. Whenever sensor data deviates too far from your growing plan’s recommendations, we’ll alert you to how to fix it. The device will initially ship with the following sensors:
- Water & air temperature
- Brightness (to determine if your plants are receiving enough light)
- pH (for measuring the acidity of the nutrient solution)
And if you want even more detailed data, you’ll be able to purchase an electrical conductivity (EC) sensor for measuring the concentration of nutrients in the solution. We will also have your device setup to work with Cosm right out of the box, so you can share your data with the greater Internet of Things network!
The device will also have two power outlets that can be set up on timers via the website to control anything from lights to pumps.
Community of Growers
Once you’re a member of the Bitponics community, you’ll be able to share your growing plan and results, and try out other members’ growing plans and rate how successful you were with them. If you’re completely new to hydroponic gardening, we think this will be a great way to get started: you tell us you want to grow tomatoes, and we show you a growing plan that’s been rated as being “easy” and has been successfully used by other members of the community.
We’re aiming to retail the Bitponics device at $395. But as a special thank you for supporting this project, we're offering it for pledges $250 and up. With a purchase, you become a member of the online Bitponics community. You’ll be able to store 1 year’s worth of growing history and hundreds of photos on the Bitponics website. And we’ll have extra membership tiers if you want to store unlimited growing history.
If you just want to try out the website without buying a device (like if you just want to create a growing plan that sends you email reminders), we’ll have a completely free tier that lets you store 6 months of growing history. And we’re big believers in people owning their own data, so we’ll always provide an easy way for you to export all of your logs and photos.
Open Source Hardware
We’re open sourcing the device and its firmware, allowing everyone to contribute to the development of the Bitponics platform. If you’ve got some tech skills, you could add additional functionality, like adding more sensors or sending logged data to services besides the Bitponics website. And we’re writing the device firmware in the popular Arduino programming language, which will make it accessible and easy to tinker with.
We think that Bitponics will be an amazing resource for schools. Kids will be able to get unprecedented insight into the environmental factors that support plant growth. And with the community aspect, schools across the country could run collaborative experiments: imagine two schools running the same growing plan, with the same seeds and setup, but with one using fluorescent lights and the other using LED’s. Think of how much students could learn about photosynthesis and how it relates to different wavelengths of light!
Now think of all the other experiments being run across the gardening community. How much knowledge is gained every season by hydroponic growers, each trying out little tweaks to their garden to see if it’ll make their plants happier? Imagine if all of a sudden, we could all share that with each other in real-time. What could we learn by looking at past growing history, comparing it to current results, and examining how each environmental factor played its part in our plants’ health? Let's find out!
We’ve already discussed partnerships with various organizations including Boswyck Farms and Dekalb Market Farm. So as soon as the system’s ready, we’ll be able to bring Bitponics to the the educational environments and communities that will benefit the most from it.
Where We’re At & Where Your Money Will Go
We've developed functioning prototypes of the device and software. Your contribution will help us fund initial manufacturing costs. We’ve finalized all the sensors and are now working to refine the WiFi system to make setup dead simple. For the more complex sensors, pH and PPM, we partnered with local bioengineers Atlas Scientific. We've chosen to manufacture the board through Seeed Studio because of our past experience with them. The goal is to send the final design out for fabrication late July. By mid-September we will receive the boards and begin testing and final assembly to begin shipping out in December.
On the software side, we’ve completed designs and are currently hard at work developing the website and back-end. Once the site is ready for beta, we’ll be developing apps for iPhone and Android. Your contribution will allow us to dedicate the resources to make the website & apps as awesome as we know they can be.
If we meet our funding goal, we plan to deliver the first batch of devices and have the software beta ready in September.
In a "water culture" hydroponic system, your plants sit in an aerated nutrient solution. That means your solution will have air bubbles pumped into it to provide oxygen to the plants' roots. The system we're offering holds 6 plants. It's great for getting started because it has fewer parts than more complex systems and it's perfect to just set on a tabletop by a window.
Here are the components we'll provide you with:
- 34 Qt. HDPE Container, measuring 21"W x 15"L x 7"D. We use HDPE because it's a high-quality, safe plastic that doesn't leech any chemicals or BPA into your system.
- Air Pump + Air Stone + Airline Tubing (for aerating the nutrient solution)
- 6 Grow Cubes (for starting seeds)
- Six 3" Net Cups - these are the individual containers your plants will sit in.
- Hydroton (clay pebble growing medium, for filling your net cups)
- Polystyrene Foam "Raft" - This floats on top of your nutrient solution, and has 6 holes for the net cups to sit in. We use polystyrene because it's a safe foam that resists mildew and won't leech any chemicals into the solution.
We have a photo of this system on the project page. And here's a webpage that goes into detail on how to build a similar one: http://www.hydroponics-simplified.com/raft-lettuce.html. The system we provide is similar but will be made of higher-quality, safer components all around.
We will provide the Arduino code on our website as well as expose a serial port on the device for uploading custom firmware. The PCB CAD files will be available for download as well!
Any system with a nutrient reservoir is compatible with Bitponics (this includes aquaponics as well!). You simply submerge the sensor nodes in the solution.
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