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Grow box with monitoring and remote control system

Hi everyone,

My friends and I are working on a grow box that you can command remotely with an app. Originally, we created the box for all type of plants. We are now wondering if we go further with special plants. As you guys are expert in carnivorous plants, we’d love to hear your precious opinions on our work so that we can improve it.

So here is the thing:
Agrome is a grow box which help to grow exotic, non-native plants and to increase their yield by remotely creating a controllable environment with a smartphone, or tablet, computer, or whatever connected to internet :D). It is equipped with:
  • LEDs of various (very precise) light frequencies that plants need most: Blue (470nm), Royal Blue (447.5 nm), Red (627nm), Deep Red (655nm) and others. You can manage the proportion of each type of light to optimize the yield of each state of growth: from seedling to flowering.
  • a heater : to bring heat to some type of plants
  • a hydroponic system with direct irrigation towards the roots.
  • various compartments for nutrients to inject the right nutrient at the right state of growing.
  • ventilation
  • various types of sensors which measure air and water’s temperature, humidity, plants’ size and height, water’s pH.
  • cameras which transfers real time images, and analyses photosynthesis of plant at the same time.
  • a mini-computer (raspberry pi), to which sensors and cameras are linked, commands the activities of the box.

We have tested it on basil and mint and it works great :

Because the growbox is well insulated, and easily controlled; you can create a special environment with specific temperature, lights and nutrients that fit your plant. And this can be done remotely through an online application. The computer will keep track of all the possible environmental changes and adjust the growbox to maintain the environment that you created. At the end of the day, you can see what happened to your plant and how it is performing.

The box’s growing surface measures L40xW40cm with 25cm, 40cm, and 1m+ in height, perfectly modular.

What do you feel about it? What kind of carnivorous plants we can grow in there?

What would you suggest to improve it?

How much would you pay for it if you're interested in buying one?

Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you guys!
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What I'd like to see is some way to control the temps at various points during the day, specifically cooling the temps significantly at night. I'm sure plenty of Nepenthes growers would like a tall box to grow ultra-highland Nepenthes in. That being said, a way to control humidity would be nice too, but I figure it wouldn't be too difficult to modify the box to be hooked up to your already existing misting system and hygrostat.

For carnivorous plant growers, I've noticed cooling is a much bigger issue than heating (which I suppose is obvious, as cooling requires more energy, and can often mean less humidity). If you could find a way to get the box to be cold and humid, then many would finally be able to grow plants that need cool temps yet are extremely picky about exactly how cold and when (such as D. glanduligera and D. arcturi).
Very impressive! I agree with Benurmanii that cooling is likely to be a useful function in such a growth chamber. If you could make it possible for someone to grow some of the rare and expensive highland Nepenthes that would seem to be a market for those who have the price but not the conditions. I gather you are providing strong enough LEDs to match the intensity of full sun? It might be useful to consider CO2 injection as this would add a dimension of growth ability that might surpass natural conditions. 'Just my two cents worth. Anyway - congratulations on what you have accomplished!
I'd been thinking about trying a system like this just for automatic watering. A fully climate-controlled environment would be fantastic. I'm not sure how many carnivorous plants could be grown hydroponically though. Some larger sizes (horizontally and vertically) would be useful, especially with Nepenthes since some plants can be fairly large.
While your mix of LEDs might maximize growth, I would suggest adding enough white LEDs to give a somewhat natural appearance to the plants. It might not matter for edibles, but people grow ornamental plants (including CP's) largely for appearance, and the appearance of plants under only red and blue is bizarre.
While your mix of LEDs might maximize growth, I would suggest adding enough white LEDs to give a somewhat natural appearance to the plants. It might not matter for edibles, but people grow ornamental plants (including CP's) largely for appearance, and the appearance of plants under only red and blue is bizarre.

I would second this as well. Some people don't mind it, but a lot of us like to look at our plants. In addition, I've been told it's harder to inspect the health of CPs under red/blue lighting.
Cooling, not heating is usually the difficult part where Cp's are concerned...
Also, avoid technology for the sake of technology... critical system redundancy that doesn't depend on remote user intervention is simpler and more reliable long term.

and +1 on white LED use.

Just my 2 cents
Wow that's very interesting to hear! Thank you all!

Actually we can program the box to have day and night time (start and stop the lighting at a certain time, with full or dim lighting to imitate the sun).

For the white LED, we've thought about putting them for sure. The white light could be activated when you open the box to look at it, or when you watch it/take a picture through the app. You should be able to put the white light manually whenever you want to :)

We haven't thought about a cooling system yet. That's would be expensive to bring to the box as a feature. But if someone is ready to pay for it, why not?
The humidity sensors should work as a hygrostat. Indeed a misting system would be necessary. :thumpup:

As almost everyone has a computer and/or a smartphone, we would use that screen to replace traditional attached-to-the-box LCD screen to control the box :) In addition, the remote control allows people to take care of there plants when they are on vacations, or out of town. And users can profit upgrades to the latest technology by using an online app. Do you really prefer that the control screen is on the box?

What would be the ideal size for you if you had a box like this at your home?
Basically, I would pay lots of money if you could give me a large, tall box with lots of light that could be a fridge if and when I need to it be. I also really like the idea of gradually dimming/brightening lights to imitate sunrise and sunset. It is an idea I have thought about before, but do not have the smarts to create such a device.
  • #10
okay I see! You'd pay a lot for something super modular then?
What do you mean by 'lots of money' btw? I'm quite curious about that amount :p
  • #11
Vivi, it looks nice. It seems a bit too small to be cost effective; people may not want to pay that much to grow a couple plants.

Some people pay quite a bit for something like this:

It is almost the cost of the cheapest professional growth chamber (i.e., Percival).

I think computer based control is easier than the control on the box. I'm guessing that R-pi is running a web server and interfacing through web browser? Just like OpenHAB home automation or something like that? The problem could be the long term support. If it is using some non-standard method (or non-open source software), people may not be able to control the box once your companies stop operating (or drop the support).

Camera seems to be wasteful although I'm not sure what it does. You mentioned that the camera can be used for photosynthesis. It isn't measuring chlorophyll fluorescent (fluorometers), is it? If it were the camera which can measure the leaf temp, it might be interesting to control light/temp from the measurement. Public Lab: Near-Infrared Camera

Anyway, it looks like an interesting product.
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  • #12
Thank you for sources Naoki!

I'm amazed how expensive the growth chamber is. I think we might bring something better and less expensive than these. Are the settings of acmeorchidarium growth chamber is enough for carnivorious plants?

You get it right for the computer control. Thanks for raising the concerns of the long term support. What would you suggest?

Well, I think it'd be interesting to take a look at your plants (and its health) when I'm on vacations or out of town for a couple of days. (I'm a travel quite often). That's why I tink a camera is useful. Don't you think so?
  • #13
Acme is targeted toward orchids, so the amount of light may not be sufficient for some CPs. I'm not sure if you want to reveal it or not, but which models of LEDs are you using (and driving current)?

I don't have specific software in my mind, but something platform-neutral, open source software will be nice. My only experience with something similar is OpenHAB which I mentioned. I'm using ESP8266 (similar to arduino+wifi) with sensors (currently temp. humidity from DHT22 sensors) to monitor the grow tents. A bunch of ESP8266's reports to a R-pi (an OpenHAB server) via MQTT. I interact with OpenHAB via web page (you can interact with smart phones, too). Basically, I learned this from here:
Meet the Arduino Killer: ESP8266
Nothing fancy like yours yet, but I'm gradually learning about this, and eventually I want to control other aspects of grow tents from OpenHAB. I'm still learning, so I'm not sure if I can do everything I want to do with OpenHAB.

I guess there are cheap web cams now, so it might be good for some people. The camera might be fun if there are critters in it, but plants don't move too much!
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  • #14
[MENTION=11565]naoki[/MENTION] you may want to have a look at https://www.mysensors.org

You can run it directly on ESP8266 modules, especially the node mcu 1.0 modules. Or you can use various arduino boards and a 2.4GHz radio module. It plays nice with OpenHab https://www.mysensors.org/controller/openhab or others (I use Domoticz on my side)

I'm still setting up my own grow box, but so far I have temperature, humidity and light sensors and light control. For now the light control is only on/off with the sunrise/sunset and ambient light level detection that will switch artificial lights off when the box is under direct sun (window so limited amount of real sun, or cloudy day etc).
I still have to add a fan that will be temperature controlled. And I also noticed that my actual artificial lights were really weak...
  • #15
Thank you for the link emc2! I didn't know about it, so I'll read about it. I happen to use node mcu, too.

Do you have a recommendation for a cheap AC relay (to control the light)? I thought that it is simply attaching a relay to arduino or ESP8266, but as I read more about it, there seems to be fair number of things to consider for the safety. I bought a cheap eBay Fostek solid state relay SSR-40 DA. It's supposed to be driven from 3V, so I'm assuming ESP8266 can drive it, but I'm still studying about this.

It is cool that you use lux sensor and control the light. That's a good idea! In production greenhouses, I think there are some equipments similar to it. They monitor the sun light, and make sure that cumulative light of the day meets a certain minimum by turning on and off the artificial light (technically, it is called daily light integral, DLI).

Sorry, vivi, it is a bit of side-track from your thread, but it is somewhat related to the grow box automation. Maybe the camera could be used for the sun light sensor?
  • #16
I bought a 25A one a couple of days ago to try to control a new light. So I'm in the same boat as you so far. But yes it should work with ESP or arduino (see https://www.mysensors.org/build/relay )

For now I'm cheating, my light is 5m of 5050 led strip with a 433MHz controller. So lights are turned on/off by sending the 433MHz code to act on the controller with a 433MHz Tx on the arduino, no DIY relay involved yet.

Yes, technically it's a cheap home made DLI, if the sun is shining and I have >7500lux (climb up to 23000lux for now in full sun) I turn off the lights as they wont bring much more. If < 5000 lux light is turned back on (as soon as I'm no longer under the direct sun I go down to ~2000 lumens)

Sorry for the side-track too, but it may give you some ideas on what people like and may consider as useful options on the control/monitoring side.