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My first maker project that ended up “growing more” than I first anticipated. Complete with hardware details, MCU, backend and frontend code

This guide has ended up to be a bit more verbose, also including details from the journey that took me to this point rather than being a brief set of instructions to follow. The reason for this is that during this journey I’ve encountered many choices and I believe that providing a bit more detail here and there might help anyone who is - like me - starting out as a maker, an indoor gardener or a programmer.

Every piece of knowledge that I used in this project was self-taught and picked up from materials freely available on the internet. I hope this might encourage you to learn, experiment, make life better for you and your communities and to have a lot of fun on the way. I surely do :)

The garden
It all started about 2 years ago with receiving a small basket of basil and parsley as a housewarming gift and I quickly got hooked on the idea of cooking with fresh herbs even in the middle of winter. Since I’ve also spent these years on a sabbatical leave things were bound to spiral out of control - in a good way.

First I started buying new basil plants ad-hoc from the local supermarket, and soon I had 6-7 of them in my window and countless new plans and ideas in my head.

Then a few months later, following an unfortunate mass extinction event I’ve found myself back at square one.. ending up with a lot of good pesto though.

So I chose the patience game and started from scratch with good quality seeds from a family-owned Italian farm.

While the seeds were sprouting I had plenty of time to watch countless instructional videos and gardening tutorials. So the only logical next step was to buy a few grow lights and eventually evolve the project into a semi-automated aeroponics garden where only the nutrient solution needs to be manually changed every now and then.

This was also my introduction to the Maker world.

Grow container and aeroponics
I ended up choosing aeroponics over other approaches because it seemed to be the most resource efficient and the thought of having a huge bucket of roots, dangling in vaporized nutrient solution in the middle of my home was also strangely appealing.

Since it was planned to be an experimental build, I used an IKEA box (probably not food grade so I wouldn’t recommend it) cut a few holes in the top for the netcups and that was it.

The single container approach works fine but it has its downsides: once the roots reach the nutrient solution it becomes hard to control root rot as the mist maker does not oxygenate the water enough. I regularly have to apply hydrogen-peroxide(H2O2) to disinfect it. There are other, better variants (see: high pressure aeroponics) but this one is the easiest to build.”

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