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outdoors commercial setup, input needed


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  #1  
Old 03-01-2015, 12:12 PM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Default outdoors commercial setup, input needed

Hi all, new visitor first time poster.

I am planning an outdoors commercial operations in Seville, Spain. The setup I am planning will be about 7 hectares of NFT/ aeroponics when it is in full production but due to economic constraints I will start with about 0.1 hectares only.

I plan to purchase a few cheap plastic greenhouses for seeding purposes and then move them outdoors when in vegetative. Later I will setup a few real greenhouses for production during November-February.

What I am thinking mostly is the ground: should I put plastic wrap on it first? In just the greenhouses or on the fields aswell?

Another thing: how long will the NFT/ Aeroponics units last outdoors in the scorching spanish sun?

Can I run a septic dispersal under plastic? It does not seem proper to me.

Thankful for any responses.

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  #2  
Old 05-12-2015, 04:50 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Default doser for multiple lines?

I bump the thread with a new question:

Is there a good doser on the market for use on multiple lines? I won't have electricity at first so it can't be too consuming or too expensive.

The alternative is to set up one for each line but given that I won't have good theft protection on the property it feels awkward.
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Old 05-13-2015, 09:42 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello jon1978,
Quote:
should I put plastic wrap on it first? In just the greenhouses or on the fields aswell?
I wouldn't use a solid plastic wrap. I would use a weed barrier. It will block weeds and most pests, but still allow water to pass through. If your not concerned with weeds you could use decorative crushed rock. 2-3 inches of decorative crushed rock wont exactly stop weeds, but it will keep dust from kicking up when it gets windy, and allow water to soak in the ground while keeping the area mud free when it gets wet. I don't know about Spain but here in Arizona, decorative crushed rock comes in many sizes and colors, as well as prices ranging from about $20 a ton to about $60 a ton. And we get free delivery when we buy 8 tons or more.

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how long will the NFT/ aeroponics units last outdoors in the scorching spanish sun?
That depends on the UV protection rating of the material you use. As an example if you use rain gutters and/or down spouts, their made to be outside in direct sunlight all year long, and are made with UV resistors already in the material. However if you plan to run NFT system in direct sunlight all year long including summer, your likely to encounter high water temperatures and high root zone temps inside those tubes/gulleys.

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Can I run a septic dispersal under plastic? It does not seem proper to me.
I can't answer that. You should ask the local city planer or contractors, they would know about your city building codes.

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Is there a good doser on the market for use on multiple lines? I won't have electricity at first so it can't be too consuming or too expensive.
First, why would you want or need them if your running a NFT system? Injectors/dosers are used in non-recirculating systems. Are you planing to run your NFT system as a non-recirculating system?

Second, even if your using a Injectors/dosers, you could install it before a manifold that splits the water line into as many lines as you need. As long as it can handle the water volume. If not you can get a higher output injector and/or use more than one. Either way, you would install it/them between the water source, and manifold that runs a feed line to each tube/gully. But you will need electricity. I believe they are basically just a low voltage solenoid, that open and close based on water flow, so you may be able to easily set up a battery bank to run them off of. Then charge the battery bank with a trickle charger that automatically regulates voltage (so they don't overcharge the batteries), as well as charge them using solar cells to charge them or as a back up if the power goes out.

The injectors wont use much power at all, but you'll want to calculate how much power you'll need for the pumps and fans etc. etc. also, to figure how many batteries you'll need and solar cells you'll need to keep them charged.
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Old 05-14-2015, 05:06 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
First, why would you want or need them if your running a NFT system? Injectors/dosers are used in non-recirculating systems. Are you planing to run your NFT system as a non-recirculating system?
Thanks for the response.

It will be a circulating system but running from a reservoir with a computer controlled nutritient, pH and EC management. I won't be able to maintain a good crop without 24/7 control of that. What I want is to use several different chains with different crops and in the beginning preferably one controller for all chains. I know one from Agro that does it but if it is too expensive I will probably go with one like Bluelab for each chain. I am mostly concerned about theft before I can maintain good security.

Quote:
Second, even if your using a Injectors/dosers, you could install it before a manifold that splits the water line into as many lines as you need.
I understand all that, but I don't want the same nutritients and EC in all chains and I don't want to disconnect one while I prepare the second or the third. That is why it needs to be "multitasking".
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Old 05-14-2015, 08:20 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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First, Injectors aren't intended to be used in recirculating systems. Their intended to inject a concentrated nutrient into a flow of fresh water only. That creates a nutrient solution and eliminates the need for a large reservoir of circulating nutrient solution.

The problem with collecting that water in a reservoir, and recirculating it again through the injectors is the nutrient strength will continually go up and up into toxic levels quickly. How do you plan to solve this problem?

If you want to grow multiple crops, with different nutrient needs, you'll need multiple reservoirs. The problem with using one reservoir and injecting different nutrients or levels into the nutrient solution in the line to different crops and recirculating it back to a central reservoir is all the different nutrients and/or levels will mix together. Not only does that defeat your purpose of separate nutrient levels, but it still has the issue of the nutrient strength continually going up and up into toxic each time the nutrient solution passes through the injectors.
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Old 05-15-2015, 04:18 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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The problem with collecting that water in a reservoir, and recirculating it again through the injectors is the nutrient strength will continually go up and up into toxic levels quickly. How do you plan to solve this problem?
I fill up the reservoir before dawn and set the nutritients to be dosed when the reservoir is at full. After that only pH and EC will be corrected until the next morning. I thought this was common practice for all reservoir users? You think all reservoir users are doing it manually?

The reason for choosing reservoirs is primarily water consumption but I am not competely sure I will go for it as I already have a pressurized system from the Guadalquivir river and as I don't have power it might be easier for the aeroponics units. I am probably going to go reservoirs for the NFT and pressured for the aeroponics.
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Old 05-15-2015, 05:32 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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On smaller scale recirculating systems, they simply change the nutrient solution regularly to ensure a balanced nutrient solution. On large scale recirculating and water culture systems where it's not reasonable to change out large volumes of water regularly. Either the water or the plant's foliage is lab tested (regularly) to determine if the nutrient solution is balanced. If not, then only the depleted mineral salts are added back. Through regular testing it's fairly easy to see a pattern in order to add specific mineral salts at specific times to maintain a balanced nutrient solution for a specific crop.

Typically with computer controlled systems that use a reservoir the EC and pH is monitored and/or adjusted in the reservoir. Not in feed lines to plants unless the system/computer is capable of determining and adjusting the injection ratio variables on a continues basis. But plants don't use nutrients evenly, they take what they need and leave the rest. That means even if your EC readings are at the same level when your nutrients were fresh, over time the balance of those nutrients will change. Eventually you will have deficiencies of some, and others will be at toxic levels, even though the EC reading is exactly the same. That's why injectors aren't typically used in recirculating systems except to adjust pH, or add specific mineral salts at specific times that are known to be depleted quicker through lab testing. Each different mineral salt and pH adjustor (up/down) will need it's own injector and feed lines.

Quote:
I fill up the reservoir before dawn and set the nutritients to be dosed when the reservoir is at full. After that only pH and EC will be corrected until the next morning.
Are you planing to change the nutrient solution in the reservoir each day? Or is this a non-recurlating system. Where does the water go once it reaches the end of the NFT gullies/tubes?
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Old 05-15-2015, 07:08 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
On smaller scale recirculating systems, they simply change the nutrient solution regularly to ensure a balanced nutrient solution. On large scale recirculating and water culture systems where it's not reasonable to change out large volumes of water regularly. Either the water or the plant's foliage is lab tested (regularly) to determine if the nutrient solution is balanced. If not, then only the depleted mineral salts are added back. Through regular testing it's fairly easy to see a pattern in order to add specific mineral salts at specific times to maintain a balanced nutrient solution for a specific crop.
But if I use a circulating system it won't be a uniform dose because the first plants will have more nutrition than the ones on the last end. If I use a circulating system I will ensure a uniform dose, all plants will recieve the same. If I flush the reservoir each night the problem you describe does not really seem to apply.

Quote:
Typically with computer controlled systems that use a reservoir the EC and pH is monitored and/or adjusted in the reservoir. Not in feed lines to plants unless the system/computer is capable of determining and adjusting the injection ratio variables on a continues basis. But plants don't use nutrients evenly, they take what they need and leave the rest. That means even if your EC readings are at the same level when your nutrients were fresh, over time the balance of those nutrients will change. Eventually you will have deficiencies of some, and others will be at toxic levels, even though the EC reading is exactly the same. That's why injectors aren't typically used in recirculating systems except to adjust pH, or add specific mineral salts at specific times that are known to be depleted quicker through lab testing. Each different mineral salt and pH adjustor (up/down) will need it's own injector and feed lines.
So how do you automate a recirculating system if not by dosers?

Quote:
Are you planing to change the nutrient solution in the reservoir each day? Or is this a non-recurlating system. Where does the water go once it reaches the end of the NFT gullies/tubes?
I don't plan to change the nutriton solution every day but I want to be able to do it if I want to. The water is supposed to go back to the reservoir but I simply add a flush valve to a solenoid so every night at 3 AM the reservoir empties out and I start adding new water for the morning. If I dimension the reservoir to the size of the line properly it will not be much water that empties out and in a large system I can reclaim it if necessary through photoalgaeic treatment.
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Old 05-17-2015, 05:27 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello
Quote:
But if I use a circulating system it won't be a uniform dose because the first plants will have more nutrition than the ones on the last end.
I think you may be misinterpreting the term recirculating. It has nothing to do with the type of hydroponic system it is, recirculating means that after the water is pumped through the system it's collected so it can be recirculated back through the system again. In a NFT system where the rows are long enough where it's possible for the first plants in the row to get more nutrients than the plants at the end of the row (rows 40 feet or longer), a secondary feed line is used half way down the row to solve the problem. And to be clear, a feed line is not a injector/doser.

Quote:
If I use a circulating system I will ensure a uniform dose, all plants will recieve the same.
How? And what benefit would a injector provide?

Quote:
If I flush the reservoir each night the problem you describe does not really seem to apply.
First, if your going to do a nutrient change every day (nobody else would), why would you also still want to go to the trouble and expense of injecting more nutrients every time the nutrient solution passes through the system again. That would be a waste of time, money, and water. Second, If you start out with a balanced full strength nutrient solution, and run it through a system where more nutrients are added every time the the same nutrient solution passes through the system again, how does that NOT create the problem where the nutrient strength continually goes up and up?

Quote:
So how do you automate a recirculating system if not by dosers?
There is no 100% automated (set it and forget it) system that never needs attention by humans that I'm aware of, not even on the space station. Computers, sensors, injectors all have limitations. Even the most sophisticated computer controlled systems still need humans, and cost a fortune. You don't just connect a injector to a computer and expect your plants will be perfect (especially if your trying to use them in a recirculating system).

Computers are connected to sensors that can monitor specific variables (temp, pH, EC, co2 etc..) Depending on your computer controlled environment agriculture software system. The computer is given set parameters, and when the readings go above the max or below the minimum parameter, the computer notifies a HUMAN. In some cases it can turn on or off other systems to bring the readings back in range.

But when it comes to nutrient levels, there is a lot more than just EC readings to consider. If you expect your computer system to be able control the level of each mineral element, well good luck. I haven't seen a system that can do that. Most systems will only turn on and off an injector for a specific time period that you programed it to go on for based on the water flow and EC level you set. But this only applies to NON-RECIRCULATING systems only. Each time the water passes by the sensor/injector the same amount of nutrients will be added over again and again each time.

More expensive and sophisticated systems might be able to read EC and adjust the on and off time and/or flow rate of the injector to vary the amount of nutrient being added to raise and lower EC levels (that is lower EC in NON-RECIRCULATING systems only). In recirculating systems all it can do is keep the injectors from adding more nutrients even if the EC continues to rise, and regardless of what nutrients are actually in the nutrient solution.

Large company's that use recirculating systems use computer systems to monitor parameters, and have a qualified full time person to take readings, monitor plant growth, and make needed adjustments to the nutrient solution as needed.

As I said before Non-recirculating systems are where injectors are typically used. In non-recirculating systems the flow rate of the injectors is set to create a specific EC (of balanced nutrient solution) in a flow of fresh water that is sent to the feed lines going to the plants. By NOT recirculating it you ensure the plants are getting a balanced nutrient nutrient solution all the time. The water line is controlled by a cycle timer that precisely turns on and off the water flow down to the second, that makes sure there is very little wasted water/nutrient solution.

Quote:
I don't plan to change the nutriton solution every day but I want to be able to do it if I want to. The water is supposed to go back to the reservoir but I simply add a flush valve to a solenoid so every night at 3 AM the reservoir empties out and I start adding new water for the morning
I'm a bit confused here because in one sentence you say you don't want to change it every night, but in the next sentence you say your going to flush it every night at 3 AM.

Quote:
If I dimension the reservoir to the size of the line properly it will not be much water that empties out
If the water is supposed to be recirculated and going back in the reservoir, then why wouldn't their be much water left to empty out? Where is it going if it's not going back in the reservoir.

What size reservoir are you planing, and what size and how many plants is it supposed to feed?
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Old 05-17-2015, 07:28 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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How? And what benefit would a injector provide?
The injector would simply prepare the nutrition content in the reservoir between 3 and 5 AM. It doesn't have to be an actual injector, it can be a pump or whatever, I just state my desire for a controller, not the actual injector or solenoid or pump or what have you.

If you run a non-circulating system you would need 100% of the nutrition to be utilized in one run in order to be profitable, if you recirculate the nutrition over a day it will most likely be more uniform because the nutrition content gradually goes down over the day as the plants use it.

Quote:
First, if your going to do a nutrient change every day (nobody else would), why would you also still want to go to the trouble and expense of injecting more nutrients every time the nutrient solution passes through the system again. That would be a waste of time, money, and water. Second, If you start out with a balanced full strength nutrient solution, and run it through a system where more nutrients are added every time the the same nutrient solution passes through the system again, how does that NOT create the problem where the nutrient strength continually goes up and up?
I am not sure why you don't understand what I am going for. I want an automated system where I can specify each day what nutritients and EC I want. I want lots of N and low EC early on and then gradually more P and higher EC later on. I don't want to manually change it, I don't want to manually dose my reservoirs. In order to do it I dimension the reservoirs for one day of water use and automatically empty out the slump at night and refill it with new water and dose it before sunrise. The problem is not nutritient build-up, the problem is finding a controller that can do it. Apparantly, the only one I have found so far cost 15,000 USD which I don't want to pay when I don't have appropriate security, hence the discussion.

I am thinking of building my own PLC using a standard industrial platform and incorporate nutritient meters for N, P and K which eliminates the entire problem you describe anyway.

Quote:
There is no 100% automated (set it and forget it) system that never needs attention by humans that I'm aware of, not even on the space station. Computers, sensors, injectors all have limitations. Even the most sophisticated computer controlled systems still need humans, and cost a fortune. You don't just connect a injector to a computer and expect your plants will be perfect (especially if your trying to use them in a recirculating system).
I know that but we are talking about a commercial operation where I have to do a lot of other things too. If you want a commercial grade product you cannot do it manually because it won't get a good BRIX rating without computer automation. Heard of "non tasting hydroponic tomatoes"? That's where it comes from. I need to get the water to maintain a certain level even when I am not at the site to take care of it. I cannot afford a night shift staff just because there is no PLC unit that can do it.

Quote:
But when it comes to nutrient levels, there is a lot more than just EC readings to consider. If you expect your computer system to be able control the level of each mineral element, well good luck.
Well, good thing I know how to code a computer then.

Quote:
I'm a bit confused here because in one sentence you say you don't want to change it every night, but in the next sentence you say your going to flush it every night at 3 AM.
You wrote "change the dosage", not "change the water". To be clear, neither applies because the dimension of the reservoir is to be aimed at a days worth so it is only the slump water that is to be flushed, not the entire reservoir. If necessary I have a backup reservoir. It is not rocket science, but it is preferable to non-circulating system.

Quote:
If the water is supposed to be recirculated and going back in the reservoir, then why wouldn't their be much water left to empty out? Where is it going if it's not going back in the reservoir.
Because of the dimension of the reservoir is based on a days consumption?

Quote:
What size reservoir are you planing, and what size and how many plants is it supposed to feed?
The first setup will be about 0.2 hectares split up on three systems, then I will increase it to 6-10 hectares when I have everything running but I don't want to dimension the lines until I know how much nutritients each line will consume. I don't know which aeroponics I will use for the tomatoes and pepperfruits yet, I am thinking of an Ein Gedi system which is a hybrid between aeroponics and raft.
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Old 05-17-2015, 07:41 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Have you ever grown any plants hydroponically before??? I don't mean that sarcastically. I just see so many problems in your statements that it simply leads me to believe you don't have any practical experience growing plants hydroponically. If you want to build your own automation system, that's fine, good luck with that. But you'll be wasting a lot of time and money withough't having the first hand growing experience first.
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Old 05-17-2015, 08:13 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Have you ever grown any plants hydroponically before???
No but I got an A.A.S degree in horticulture and I have also studied aquaponics. I have also run several businesses earlier, including an e-commerce with a rather large workload, so I when I say I need automation it is not only because of it is "something I have read somewhere", it is based on actual experience. Small businesses cannot run large operations without automation. Every hour I use to do menial tasks is an hour less on actual quality control.
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Old 05-17-2015, 08:29 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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I didn't think so, now that explains a lot. It's great that you have different degrees, and studied different things etc.. And I'm not saying that automation shouldn't be used. But you need to know where and how to do it best. And there are so many things that you simply need to learn by doing that you will never get from a book. You need to learn that first in order to learn the best way/s you can automate/streamline your production.

You have a big learning curve ahead, if you spend the time and money now to try and reinvent the wheel before you even know how the car works, you'll be wasting both your time and money. Set your plans on hold for at least a year while you grow some plants and get that much needed first hand experience, and in all 4 seasons. If you choose not to, at least get some advice and help from a well established local company that specializes in helping hydroponic farmers grow their crops.
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Old 05-17-2015, 09:04 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
You have a big learning curve ahead, if you spend the time and money now to try and reinvent the wheel before you even know how the car works, you'll be wasting both your time and money. Set your plans on hold for at least a year while you grow some plants and get that much needed first hand experience, and in all 4 seasons. If you choose not to, at least get some advice and help from a well established local company that specializes in helping hydroponic farmers grow their crops.
The problem is there is no local hydroponic producers, the only ones I know that operate on this scale is in Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Finland.

I don't have playroom for doing everything myself because I have to pay for the land and the equipment which on top of two wages will be required of me to do other things than spending every night at the farm. Besides, if I don't have automation I won't even know if the water is running. The farm will be more than 5 km from my apartment, it has to be automated in order to maintain the health of the plants.

So the setup I am thinking of is something like this:

2x pH
2x EC
2x temperature
1x natrium
1x potassium
1x phosphorus
2x controller pumps for nutrition tanks
1x controller pump for pH
1x controller pump for EC

2 solenoid controls for water level in reservoir
1x pump control
2x water flow sensors

flush valve for draining the reservoir
USB
maybe wifi

a simple i/o touchscreen

If I get it to work I can post the parts list, I don't think it will cost more than 1000-2000 USD if I shop around.
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Old 05-17-2015, 09:15 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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What good is all that when your plants die? The company's that sell greenhouses and custom manufacture hydroponic nutrients usually have consulting programs. It may seem like a unnecessary expense now, but you'll save yourself years of trouble and dead (unsellable) plants. Not to mention a butt load of money. You want to dive into an Olympic sizes swimming pool without waiting for it to be full of water first. You just don't have the practical experience about the basics yet.
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Old 05-17-2015, 09:21 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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I don't understand your point. The plants will have a better chance of survival if I can monitor the system 24/7. I cannot live at the farm because it is not zoned for residential. That means I have to leave the farm to go back to my house to sleep etc. Automation is essential, I cannot run it without it, it is as simple as that.

What you are implying is that I should try without it but if so I certainly risk the health of the plants the first night I am home sleeping.
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Old 05-17-2015, 10:16 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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I don't understand your point.
YOU DON'T HAVE THE PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE ABOUT THE BASICS YET. YOU NEED AT LEAST A YEARS HANDS ON EXPERIENCE TO LEARN THE BASICS. Any attempt to build a system and automate it the way you think it will work will be a waste of time and money for many reasons. Those things you will only learn through HANDS ON EXPERIENCE, not from a book.

Quote:
The plants will have a better chance of survival if I can monitor the system 24/7.
You don't know anything about what, how and why the plants needs are yet (I know you think you do, but you clearly don't). How can you expect to build a working car if you only read about cars from a book, no mater how great you think the book was. You don't want to take the time to learn, you don't want to pay for consulting. I hope you have plenty of money to burn, and time to waste learning things the hard way when you could have learned them the easy way withough't going into debt before learning your going to have to rethink everything.

Quote:
I cannot live at the farm because it is not zoned for residential. That means I have to leave the farm to go back to my house to sleep etc. Automation is essential, I cannot run it without it, it is as simple as that.
I can't help that, and I didn't get you into this situation. But it doesn't change anything.

Quote:
What you are implying is that I should try without it but if so I certainly risk the health of the plants the first night I am home sleeping
Why? You cant do anything withough't a computer sticking out of it? I sleep too you know, I sleep every night. I don't have a computer and sensors sticking out of everything and my plants grow nicely anyway. No computer or automation (regardless of how great you think it will be) will replace the need for the basic knowledge you don't have. If you can't keep a few plants alive, do you think a computer automation system you build will be able to do what you cant? Does it have some type of artificial intelligence that's smarter than you? If it does perhaps you can consult with it to help you design and build your hydroponic systems based on the needs of the plants (part of the basics you don't know).

I see you have your heart set on proceeding with your plans regardless of how flawed they are. Your skipping over problems like you don't think they will ever exist. And those are the basics you need to learn first. You'll learn one way or another, I just wanted to shorten up your learning curve, and save you time and money. A year or two later you will wish you'd fallowed my advice. But I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 05-17-2015, 10:32 AM
jon1978 jon1978 is offline
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I think this discussion is turning stupid and I have had more interesting input in other forums. If one water pump fails and I am not there to see it the plants die, period. A computer can warn me by sending me a text message. Your main point seems to be that it is more important that I learn to mix the nutritients by hand than having a system that warns me of problems before they kill the plants simply because your opinion.

You are trying to tell me that a 2000 dollar system is overkill when the harvest is worth more? What do you think 10 hectare agricultural land cost in Europe btw?
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Old 05-17-2015, 10:39 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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You have a lot to learn, good luck....

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