Solid State Depot and the Future of Farming


In December 2010, Boulder's Solid State Depot started brainstorming ways to address the issue of how to keep agricultural output on pace with the insatiable demands of global population growth. They started designing and building a garden based on autoponics -- the cybernation and automation of every aspect (seed, harvest, distribution, etc) of food production -- so basically, robot farmers:


The future is now.

After a year of working out the kinks, and thanks to some awesome hackers/students, the group was given a grant by CU to collaborate with the Correll Lab to make the project a reality. Seeds were planted in early March in a garden run by a system of water pumps and light sensors, with a high-res webcam for visual data. The system monitors the plants' needs and growth stages, and alerts the team through a web interface when the plants are ready to harvest.


This video shows a trial run of their autoponics camera system.

Last week, the project team was chosen as one of five across the country to participate in NASA's 2013 Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. With a $40,000 grant, over the next academic year the university team will focus on Remote Plant Food Production Capability. So someday, thanks to Boulder Hackerspace ingenuity, we might be growing lettuce like whoa on Mars. Pretty impressive stuff, and a lot of hard work from Solid State Depot!

You can read more about the Autoponics project here (there's even a live video feed, where you can literally watch the plants grow). Solid State Depot holds a weekly public meeting on Tuesday nights, and the group encourages new members to join in the hackerspace movement! Or, if you're not in the Boulder area, check out the Hackerspace Wiki for a group near you! Happy hacking!


Comments 14 comments

  • I don’t know how you guys do it, but seemingly every time I come up with an idea or get interested in a topic someone over there makes a post about that exact thing! (In addition to the many other interesting posts)

    How do you guys do it?! Are you monitoring me? Did my last shipment come with a nanobot sized surveillance robot? Are you reading my thoughts?!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

    (And thank you for bringing these very interesting projects and articles to my attention. I love it!)

  • I was recently introduced to FarmHack by theVermont Makers group,as a kid I grew up on a farm and I think this rocks.

    • We had a well attended local Farm Hack event in late April. Big localvore movement here (VT) has got all kinds of makers tricking out farm equipment to boost yield on the good eats. BTW Mr. Miskatonic - just saw the great Catalyst interview!

  • This project could certainly revolutionize the way farming is done.

  • Wow,its great,some days ago i was thinking to something like this,but it was too complex and i didn’t have the parts. I’d like to use this comment to ask something too: I’m a novice and i’m searching for somebody who could help me to learn the physics of electronics via Facebook,if somebody is interested,you can reach me here: http://www.facebook.com/riccardo.fagiolo.7

  • Whua? Isn’t Global Warming supposed to make Siberia and the Canadian tundra into wheat and corn belts and quadruple the arable land on Earth? Get with it people. Problem solved! (Now don’t mess this up by cutting carbon emissions).

    • Temperature is only one variable in growing crops, there are several others including soil nutrients. Tundra and taiga (which is actually the biome that covers most Siberia and Northern Canada) soils are generally very nutrient poor. That’s not going to change except with lots of time (centuries) or billions of dollars worth of chemical fertillizers.

      • We better get started! Acid rain will break down the granite and we can haul seaweed from the newly flooded flats of Florida on Obama high speed rail and Al Gore can drive the wind powered engine. Come one people! It will be really cool. We will pass though several exciting biomes.

  • Boulder Hacker space ingenuity, we might be growing lettuce like whoa on Mars. Pretty impressive stuff, and a lot of hard work from Solid State Depot Testking VCP-510

  • You should check out: http://www.plantaccelerator.org.au/ I went on a tour there and their setup is amazing! there is a video on the main page, definitively worth a look.

  • I have my own Autoponics setup and have been developing hardware for a couple years for this very purpose. I could really use some exposure for this as I think the Solid State Depot crew has done a great job, but are missing some really really key facets to plant development that could help them a lot. I have a few fully automated HPA tables that are able to produce very high quality veggies year round, I hate to say it but my indoor gardens are doing better then the outdoor ones this year.

  • Very cool! When the Hackerspace Space Program gets rolling, we’ll be happy to see/fund projects like this - on a smaller scale than NASA has. http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Hackerspaces_Global_Space_Program

  • This reminds me of something that would be in fallout or any other post-apocalyptic story. All the humans are gone, but the robots have kept on growing the plants for thousands of years.

  • Isn’t technology wonderful, now people all around the world can critize your gardening in real-time!;)

    Seriously though, this is a great project. In the past NASA has done a lot with hydro- and aeroponics systems for potential off-Earth food production, but I’ve never heard of anyone attempting to create such a highly automated system.


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