The hydroMazing Smart Garden System

The hydroMazing system manages your growing environment by making localized data-driven decisions so that you don’t have to worry.

It wasn’t my intention to make a product. I simply wanted to solve a common problem. I want to grow plants indoors or under controlled conditions. How can I create an optimum environment for plants to thrive using commonly available electronics and household items? Which is best, soil or hydroponics?

hydroMazing is a tool for making it easier to provide optimum growing conditions for successfully growing plants at home. An independent data collection system and web interface located on your own device not a remote cloud.

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Learning how to grow plants can be complicated and costly. Plants are resilient, but just one innocent oversight can ruin your crop. You can avoid these costly mistakes by letting a smart gardening system do the hard work for you!

It was two years ago when I decided to try using an Arduino Uno microcontroller to replace my individual Lux WIN100 Heating & Cooling Programmable Outlet Thermostat. These outlets control an appliance, such as a small heater or, in this case, a ventilation fan. A device that is plugged into the outlet turns on and off the appliance by using temperature settings that you manually program into each device. This technique for controlling the ventilation fans is effective, yet uses several extension cords. The temperature outlet controllers use old-fashioned relays to switch the state of the device. My initial attempt was to hack an extension box inserting my own relays into it and connecting them to the Arduino Uno. It wasn’t very long before there was a mess of wires with lots of connector nuts and I was left feeling discouraged.

Home Automation

A home automation idea that I had bouncing around in my head for a while was to use wirelessly controlled AC outlets that use a hand-held remote-control. Hacking the remote control to send the signal for the ON or OFF button selected by a corresponding pin on the Arduino Uno shouldn’t be too difficult, right? The nagging concern that was preventing me from testing this idea was the fear that the signal would not be reliable and the Uno might “think” it had turned on a device when it actually failed. Eventually, I was able to convince myself that the best way to find out is to just try and see what happens. Unfortunately, the results of this test wasn’t much better than the relay attempt.

A search on the web for nearly any sensor or electronic doo-dad with “Arduino” will result in a number of products being sold for a few bucks. In this case, I found the 315Mhz and 433Mhz transmitter and receiver pairs that are within the frequency range of most commercial wirelessly controlled outlets. The greatest advantage to using the Arduino family of microcontrollers for these types of projects, is that you can find open-source software to get started. Another search on the web for an “Arduino library” and in this case, transmitter and receiver or tx/rx pair. Now, it was getting exciting for me. I could read the codes coming out of the remote-control, record them, and then program the Arduino to control the corresponding outlets. Designing the software to operate on the Arduino Uno became the challenge. The examples that come with the Arduino software and the examples included with libraries are an excellent start to a project. In my experience, once you start combining and making modifications to the examples it doesn’t take very long before you hit a wall. I don’t think I’m a good programmer, I think I’m a stubborn perfectionist.

In one of my favorite books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the author, Robert Pirsig, speaks of the gumption trap. Essentially, the gumption trap is an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm and become discouraged from starting or continuing a project. Knowing when to push through the discomfort and frustration and when to take a break and walk-away from the project are personal challenges. There have been times when if I had taken a break, I might not have come-up with an excellent solution to a conflict in my source code. Contrary, there have been times when I have walked-away for a month and worked on a completely different type of project feeling reinvigorated. Perhaps, if the project is important enough, we will be compelled to return to work on it. The trap is convincing ourselves that the project isn’t worth returning to even when it could be amazing. Maybe it really isn’t worth returning to complete and this is where many projects end.

Source: The hydroMazing Smart Garden System

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