This project has now completed, but for ordering information please visit my website at www.aquafloranurseries.com.
Why I started this project
I have been growing aquarium plants for over 10 years as a business, and algae have always caused me headaches and problems. A few years ago, I finally figured out why I had such issues, and it was because I did not have enough carbon dioxide (CO2) for the plants. Ever since, I have been trying to find a reliable way of measuring the CO2 in my nursery. There were a few methods such as reading pH or colour change drop checkers, but they are not very reliable, or they are not very accurate, and calibration can be a pain. So finally I decided to do something myself.
The result is the OCO meter. Originally, it was only for my own use, but then I realized that others can benefit from OCO as well. OCO directly measures CO2 (not pH, or anything else, just CO2) in the aquarium, and reports the number as parts per million (ppm), which is familiar to most aquarium enthusiasts. It works in all types of water (hard, soft, even marine!).
What does OCO do?
There are two models of the OCO, the monitor and the controller. Both have the same CO2 sensing electronic guts, the difference between them is that the controller will also operate a solenoid value so that when CO2 levels are low, OCO will turn on the solenoid and CO2 will diffuse into the aquarium. When CO2 levels are high enough for the plants, OCO will turn off the solenoid and no more CO2 will enter the tank (until the plants have used up what was injected and more is needed).
Other cool things about the OCO...
OCO is very easy to operate; it is pre-calibrated, and is ready to use out of the box. If someone does want to calibrate OCO, it is also very simple: Just take the OCO out of the aquarium, place outside for about 30 minutes, then press the CALIBRATE button on the back of the unit. Atmospheric CO2 is around 390 ppm, and knowing this, OCO is programmed to calibrate itself, so that there is no need to buy expensive test solutions or mess around with chemicals.
For hobbyists interested in collecting data, the unit supports USB connection to your computer as well.
I started this project because I believe Kickstarter is the best platform to try new ideas and test the market. The largest cost will be the cast acrylic case; after having used many different materials near water and aquariums, I have learned acrylic is by far the most resilient, and so I have chosen to use it. Acrylic is water proof, UV resistant, fade resistant, and handles the salts and fertilizers that are in aquarium water. It is also more expensive, but the durability of it makes it worth the extra cost. To make our first order cost effective, we need to have a fairly large order of cases.
Intended Timeline and Fulfillment Plan:
- Kickstarter Campaign (From present to end of July)
- Send out thank you rewards and fertilizers (end of July)
- Order parts, assemble, and test Early Bird Rewards ( First two weeks of August)
- Assemble and test All remaining rewards (third week of August)
- Begin sending out OCO units to backers (first week of September)
*If this plan changes, I will notify all backers who are affected promptly.
Risks and challenges
To keep the risks as low as possible, I have already built and tested several versions of the OCO to work out any design issues and performance issues. I still use the original model I made for my nursery as well (4 years ago).
There are a number of parts that are in the OCO, and I have sourced these parts from a number of different suppliers so that if one supplier does run out, there is second source of parts available.
For this Kickstarter project, I will also be assembling and testing every unit to make sure it leaves the warehouse in perfect working condition.
The main risk of delay is with CSA approval of electronic devices, and I am managing this risk with an electrical and design engineer.
I promise to keep all backers up to date with weekly emails detailing our progress, and if something does come up, I will promptly inform you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)