A while ago, I noticed many people using the Arduino controller for all sorts of home projects. I knew I just *had* to have one.

After I received it through the mail and exploring its possibilities, it struck me that this would make it possible to make a (more or less) self-supporting closed greenhouse.

In a closed environment the Arduino would be able to control all parameters like water, light and temperature. I chose to go with LED lighting because LED lighting is becoming more and more promising when it comes to growing plants. This would also prove a neat experiment in using this alternative light source.

Imagine placing a plant in this machine, setting the controls for growing and when the plant has grown to the preferred size, setting it for blossoming and presto! Just like having a home bread making machine for plants!

This instructable will show you the basics of the system I have developed and (where needed) the pitfalls I have encountered. The only thing you will need is some basic electrical knowledge and a lot of common sense!

Additionally, I will share future growing experiences with you in this instructable.

Please ignore any language inconsistencies as English is not my native language...

**DISCLAIMER, PART 1** I am not an electrical engineer. If this machine burns your house down, kills you (or something really bad happens), I am not responsible!

Remember: you are working with electricity (and water!) and you should always make sure you work safely!

As for the power LEDs: THEY ARE EXTREMELY BRIGHT! You should not look directly into them as you might damage your eyes.

**DISCLAIMER, PART 2** Although it might be suitable for it, I do not promote growing a specific type of weed in this machine. Whatever you do, make sure it is legal in your country or area you live in! I highly recommend growing radish or lettuce.

** UPDATE **

From experimenting it seems that seedlings will do well once matured a bit. When growing from seeds, the light will fall short a bit. The plants will stretch and not develop right.

As a result, I am currently looking into using normal energy saving lamps (SL lamps) which generate a huge amount of wide spectrum light at 18 Watts.

Bear with me, more to follow!

Step 1: Overview

To give you an idea of what it should do you can look at the image below.

The heart of the system is a box in which the plants will grow. Next to it is a controller box which contains the Arduino and some PCB circuitry (schema's will be discussed later on). The box is located OUTSIDE of the growing area to prevent shortage and potentially dangerous situations.

The controller box measures temperature (both inside and outside) and can control a fan to influence the inside temperature and provide the air circulation needed for healthy plant growth.

Located in the bottom of the cabinet, a reservoir of (fertilized) water is placed with a pump in it. The plants will be suspended above this reservoir so all water pumped up to the plants will eventually pour back into the reservoir. The pump will be driven by 12 Vdc for safety reasons.

To prevent dirt from building up in your water container (possibly clogging the pump) you should not use earth but a combination of steelwool and hydro-pellets. This allows the water to fully drain after watering. So in effect, this is a hydrophonic system.

The lights are also regulated by the controller box. The setup basically has two modes for plant growth: grow mode (about 24 to 18 hours of light) and flower mode (about 12 hours of light). This will enable us to grown plants which are sensitive to shorter lighting periods and encourage them to respond by creating flowers or fruit. The cabinet should be carefully light-proofed to exclude external light sources.

Again, it is important to point out that I have chosen to run everything on 12 volt DC. The main reason here is safety. After all, we are working with water here! If you decide to use 220 / 110 V the please make sure the relays used are capable of switching the load intended and that you *ALWAYS* use the earthing provided by your grid!

<p>Copper doesn&acute;t oxidate when used as a heatsink if your Lamps don&acute;t get hotter than 200&deg;C (LEDs die around 80&deg;C i think).</p><p>Aluminium is used because it&acute;s cheaper.</p>
<p>Great topic, I actually just saw a kickstarter that's pretty similar but takes it a little further. Check it out if you're interested in this stuff: http://kck.st/12IOYV1</p>
LED's are great alternative to HPS and other forms, Their expensive if you dont make them yourself if you make it yourself it's dirt cheap! <br>Great instructable starting point for me!
Nice system and very well designed ;) I do have a couple of questions/additions for your setup. When designing a growbox for any type of plant you should think of the fact that in the growbox you are GOD and you have to control everything. Your instructable shows only light control, water giving and one fan control. If you add a few things like an intake fan, EC and PH control of your plant's diet, in a normal growroom the lights are the main source of warmth inside your box. The leds are nice but how are you going to provide heat in your room? Also, a growbox should be air and light tight. Airtightness can be achieved by placing valves on the intake and outlet fan. These can also be controlled with the arduino. These are just a few tips, i do have a lot more information on the subject.
Are the intake and outlet valves used for mataining warmth?
whenever the fans are down (technical flaw, power outage, etc) the valves help keeping the heat in the growbox :-) I think for heating purposes you'll need a little stove, especially with the Led-Light setup...
Suprisingly, the leds get quite hot when running for some time. You really should use a thermal underground (for example old CPU heat block) to mount the leds to.<br><br>The heat spread by this heat sink will heat up the environment nicely :)
Hello again! We have managed to built your LED growbox and it works! Thanks for the nice tutorial! I only have a problem with the script. It seems it jumps randomly from mode to mode. How can I set it to only one of the modes?
Maybe your pulldown resistor is not wired up correctly. The button can then cause irradical behaviour. To find out, try to disconnect the mode switch button and see if the behaviour stops. If this is the case, use a pulldown resistor to pull the signal to 0 when the button is not used. Most likely a 1Kohm resistor will do the trick. Have fun!
Hello, very nice tutorial, thank you! I have a problem with downloading the files, they come as .tmp to my computer. Could you help?
Try saving them as .pde or whatever sketch fill type you need. That worked for me.
A few months has passed since this project was posted. I'm curious of the outcome. What is your success and yield of your little project as compared to growing out in the open? I'm particularly interested in the LED lamp you created. If you were to do it all over again. Is there anything you would do differently, like maybe add more LED's or less LED's, more blue LED's. Is there any tweaks you did to the Ardrino program after the posting?
This is a great idea and a great instructable. Thank you. I intend to use it myself with some modification, of course! Thanks again.
&nbsp;Don't consider this spam, but ledshoppe.com has very cheap leds (100 ultrabright red LEDs for $5) and every order has free shipping. The only downside is that you have to wait forever, my first order took almost a month.
I love this instructable but what does the red and blue leds for and would regular white leds work.<br />
The white leds would work. The therory though is that plants use mostly blue and red light and reflect green light. So the energy used to make the green part of the white spectrum is wasted. Total lumens seem to make the white seem brighter, but thats because our eyes are most sensitive to green light. So green in terms of lumens is always going to be higher per watt than red or blue. Red and blue leds are low on the lumen scale because our eyes don't see them as well.&nbsp;The energy output is what your after, not lumens in this application.
are you still using this system? how has it been holding up?&nbsp; great work you've done, thanks.<br />
Hi, great instructable, I've ordered a few parts to build/mod my own growbox, but I'm wondering, what is this eagle of which you speak?<br />
Thats PCB software to design electrical circuits. It is available free (in a somewhat limited version but for hobby use quite nice).<br /> <br /> Try googling &quot;eagle pcb download&quot;.<br />
i have to wonder when you said &quot;I do not promote growing a specific type of weed in this machine,&quot; what context that was in? Because to some, that means no illicit growing, but to others it means you don't support a specific type, i.e. Skunk or mids. just to clear things up...
I wish my arduino was working i would love to try this.
You blasted it in an experiment? :-)
It keeps having problems with the <br/><br/>vrdude: stk500_getsync(): not in sync: resp=0x00<br/>avrdude: stk500_disable(): protocol error, expect=0x14, resp=0x51<br/><br/>Even after selecting the right board and port. It just works when it wants too.<br/>
Maybe the avr chip itself is shot. In europe they are about 5 euro so it might be worth the gamble.
I've been experimenting with indoor gardening myself and I chose CFLs over LEDs. How have your plants done since those last pictures? I'd recumbent a separate pot for each plant.
By "pot" I mean "flowerpot" :-)
And by "recumbent" I mean recommend. lol I'd recognize those seedlings anywhere. btw try moving the light closer so they don't stretch so far. also Kip Kay isn't half as cool as Bre Pettis
:-) Now I will have to lookup Bre Pettis! I made sure the new seedling is < 10 cm away from the lights. Any closer would make the light not a mixture of blue/red as the beams would not mix. A great number of ppl have had quite nice results using only SL fixtures, LED uses a substantial smaller quantity of Watts, so if only the results will be comparable to that of SL, I will be pleased!
The pot you see in the picture is only a "seed test" to see if seeds will in fact sprout under the LED light. The test succeeded. I am now repeating the test with only one seed, planted in rockwool and surrounded by hydro pellets. The seed has reached 3cm now (in about 3-4 days)! I will update the growing experience as soon as the new seedling starts to develop nodes. Uptil now I have been pleasantly suprised by the effect the light has had on growing material!
Here is scientific evidence that LED's work. the key is to match the wavelength of LED<br/><br/> Journal Title - Russian Journal of Plant Physiology<br/><br/>Article Title - Growth and photosynthesis of Chinese cabbage plants grown under light-emitting diode-based light source<br/><br/> Volume - Volume 56<br/><br/> Issue - 1<br/><br/> First Page - 14<br/><br/> Last Page - 21<br/><br/> Issue Cover Date - 2009-01-01<br/><br/> DOI - 10.1134/S1021443709010038<br/><br/> Link - <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/j3v422803h057531">http://www.springerlink.com/content/j3v422803h057531</a><br/>
I know for a fact that LEDs work! The reason for them not being wide-spread is also a financial one: LEDs tend to be more expensive as an investment. Also, the light flux deteriorates during the life-time of the LEDs. These two factors also prevent the LED to break though on a large scale. Apparently, the photosynthesis of plants can differ a bit (this means certain types of plants will react differently to other wavelengths). Good find anyway!
This is one of the best instructables I've seen recently. You're getting into KipKay range with this. This isn't something I need, but it is well written. This is how instructables should be made. 4.5 stars ry25920
I will immediately lookup KipKay now! :-)
Thanks! I've been thinking of making something like this myself for quite some time and think I may now get round to it. Your version seems very thorough and very well explained. Looking forward to seeing the results of your tests.
Thank you for the compliment! I had to force myself to think about it before starting off... :-)

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