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May 30, 2013 AT 2:59 pm

Farm Geeks: Learning to Love the Circuit Board

farm-geek-circuit-board

Farm Geeks: Learning to Love the Circuit Board

Steve Spence, an amateur organic farmer in Andrew, South Carolina, has a smart way of irrigating his vegetables. He uses water from his pond and the fish waste to fertilize his plants, a technique known as aquaponics. But the critical balance between the makeup of the water and soil means Spence has to know exactly what’s going on in both. Real-time information about the pond’s make up is imperative to know he’s giving his veggies the best drink of water.

Sensors are commercially available, but Spence found them too expensive and not nearly as flexible as he needed — ”they can only do the function you purchased them for.” So he decided to customize his own. Now he monitors the water’s pH, temperature and ammonia levels, along with soil temperature, moisture levels and barometric pressure, all from a system he built himself — on the cheap.

This is what happens when maker culture — specifically, projects made using the popular, flexible Arduino boards — comes to the farm and garden. From aquaponics to weather stations, farmers are starting to embrace the modern trends of DIY tech.


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