Introduction: Desktop Gardening, Plantbot Beta

Picture of Desktop Gardening, Plantbot Beta

This project is a continuation of Plantbot Alpha.

The goal here was to build a desktop garden similar to the AeroGarden that MiracleGrow markets but with more compute power and light power. Using a laser cut wood structure, LED lights, and Raspberry Pi, I created this system to take care of my plants. This is Plantbot!

Step 1: Source Materials

Picture of Source Materials


The laser cut wood structure can be found in MG_Assembly.SLDASM.

LED lighting

Power supply Mouser #:919-RACD20-500 Mfr. #:RACD20-500 Desc.:LED Power Supplies 20W AC/DC LED PW SUP REG ($26.92 ea.)

LEDs Mouser #:941-CXA13040C00A20E8 Mfr. #:CXA1304-0000-000C00A20E8 Desc.:High Power LEDs - WhiteWarm White, 2700K 368lm, 400mA, 80CRI 8 ($1.84 ea.)


I wire these bad boys in parallel AFTER using the right glue to glue them to a heat sink. This is critical, running the LEDs without a heat sink may fry them. These LEDs are ony $1.78 but larger LEDs can be $50 ea. ! Raspberry Pi + Wifi USB Dongle

I got this on Amazon along with a case for like $75


I laser cut the structure after they were created in Solid Works.

Step 2: Assembly the Structure, Mount the Hardware

Picture of Assembly the Structure, Mount the Hardware


Wood Parts: 13 Total

Material: Plywood Specified

Thickness: .25”

Actual Thickness: .20”

Fabrication Process: Laser Cut


(a collection of learnings from assembling the first laser cut plantbot)
1. Order for assembling plantbot housing

a. The best way to assemble the housing is to mount all of the horizontal panels to one of the side panels. Once all horizontal panels are mounted then you can capture them with the other side panel and attach the rest of the hardware.

Solution: Create detailed instructions

2. Wood Pieces are directional

a. The horizontal back panel (Back Cover DF) can only be mounted in one direction. The RECOM has opposing diagonal mounting holes and because of this can only be mounted properly to one side of the wooden panel.

Solution*: Etch the panels where electric components are mounted and include detailed instructions for assembly.

b. The inside back panel (MG_BackTopPannel) can only be mounted in one direction in order for the mounting plate to fit on it properly.

Solution: Etching

3. Fit:

a. The pieces fit together loosely. The original design intent called for a tighter fit. This is due to the material thickness which is below what was specified. Solution: Size and model panels to account for the actual material thickness.

b. The panel located in the top front portion of the housing between the two side panels (MG_FTPanel-2) is note secure.

Solution: Design the front panel with two teeth to create more stability.

4. Electronics

a. The thread forming screws are tiny and difficult to handle especially if panels are mounted already.

Solution: Provide detailed instructions so the end user mounts these components prior to mounting the panels.*

b. The RECOM (power supply) cannot easily be wired once it is secured in place.

Solution: With the current Phase 2 component configuration the solutions are as follows. - Leave the mounting bolts loose to allow for easy removal of the RECOM while assembling.

-Wire everything associated with to the RECOM before mounting

-Provide a detailed set of instructions

c. The location of the relay is not ideal and is mounted in the wrong orientation. The relay should be rotated 180 degrees so that the connectors going to the PI are closer to their end position. The relay is also too close to the edge of the interior housing wall.

Solution: Move and rotate the relay in the model to utilize space. Provide a detailed set of instructions for the end user.

d. The RECOM and terminal block hardware are not easily accessible once in the built position.

Solution: Assemble components prior to assembling the complete housing. Provided a detailed set of instructions.02

e. The cord length is too short. Solution: Specify a cord that is at least 8’ long to give the end user flexibility.

f. The other DC power supplies mounting orientation affects the location of the LED.

Solution: Provide a detailed set of instructions so that the DC power supply is mounted properly with the LED point up.

g. The removable back panel (MG_BackCover) is not easy to remove*

Step 3: Marvel at the Result

Picture of Marvel at the Result

Once assembled, you're ready to start growing stuff! :)


a12548 (author)2016-09-23

Mike, What make of Laser Cutter do you use?? Awesome job!

mikeghen (author)a125482017-11-26

Contracted the laser cutting to a company near me, idk what laser they used :(

PavelD10 (author)2017-07-25

This would be also nice system if it would be much bigger eg. with desk on top :) I hope you won't mind if I steal your box design in some future project of mine ;) :D

mikeghen (author)PavelD102017-11-26

Do it! I like the idea.

imkzh (author)2016-05-29

i have just copied your idea and made one.

mikeghen (author)imkzh2016-08-16

I love it! :) You made my day! Did you wire it up?

imkzh (author)mikeghen2016-08-16

yep, i made it for a small school contest, and finally got a really surprising result that many of my classmates love it.

mikeghen (author)imkzh2016-08-17

You rock, what do you think about it?

imkzh (author)2016-05-29

Here's what i made.

mikeghen (author)imkzh2016-08-16

Yo! That water level indicator is SWEET! What's the hole in the top for? Are you adding a fan!?

imkzh (author)mikeghen2016-08-16

it is designed for adding water.

mikeghen (author)imkzh2016-08-17

Nice work, very clever additions :)

DaveG32 (author)2016-05-20

Is there any chance that we can get svg, dfx or dwg files to use for laser cutting? Looks really awesome by the way!

mikeghen (author)DaveG322016-08-16

I will try to get those for you

DaveG32 (author)mikeghen2016-08-16

Awesome, thanks! I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to those files and tried converting/using your files but just made things worse. Also tried drawing my own in Solidworks but I quickly discovered that it's a lot harder than it looks.

mikeghen (author)DaveG322016-08-17

me either :P

Steinzel (author)2016-05-20

I really like this a lot. But you are severely limiting your plant choices by not making the light height adjustable.

mikeghen (author)Steinzel2016-08-16

I know :( It sucks but I did this quick specifically for microgreens. The next version needs something to adjust the height.

Steinzel (author)mikeghen2016-08-17

Version one, version two, etc... with improvements on each one. That's great! I did save this one.

mikeghen (author)Steinzel2016-08-17

Thanks Steinzel! :)

diy_bloke (author)2016-04-27

looks fantastic. maybe not so space effective but looks good

mikeghen (author)diy_bloke2016-04-27

Thanks. Its a bit clunky for sure.

diy_bloke (author)mikeghen2016-04-27

you seem to have ample space though :-)

mikeghen (author)diy_bloke2016-08-16

Yes, it was built for micro greens :) pleanty of space for that

mikeghen (author)diy_bloke2016-08-16

Spot on! Adjustable light height is next :)

RenéB2 (author)2016-05-19

So you basically built a lamp timer? Isn't a RPi a little bit over the top for that? Also, what does make it a "Bot"?

mikeghen (author)RenéB22016-08-16

Great questions! This is not basically a lamp timer :( Think about this: can you SSH to a lamp timer, write some firmware to access peripherals attached to a lamp timer, or run digital image processing on images using a third parties server from a lamp timer? I did not build a lamp timer and the Raspberry Pi is fantastic here.

By definition, a robot, or "bot", is a mechanical or virtual agent. The greek root of "agent" means to do, make, or perform. The modern definition of an agent is one who exerts power. My definition of a robot: a non-human and non-natural entity that exerts power by mechanical or virtual means. I love my definition because it's so broad. Plantbot exerts power by means of its LED lighting system, which is controlled by the R. Pi. It's exerting power by emitting light energy overtime. The result: Plantbot grows plants for me on my kitchen counter. Primarily, what makes Plantbot a bot is the fact that it performs a function that exerts power. By my definition even a lamp plugged into a lamp timer is a "bot" :)

Stéphane-GabrielM (author)2016-05-19

Add a few sensors for humidity and temperature... A watering system an you get a fully automated device to have 365 days of fresh seasoning herbs =)

That's the idea :)

Ghild.Zero (author)2016-05-20

Wow fantastic well done, but Pi used just for relay control ? and is any LED's specification must to follow to grow plant ?

mikeghen (author)Ghild.Zero2016-08-16

The white light works well. Plants can grow with any light though some colors are more effective.

In my opinion, any white light can grow plants but not all white lights are optimal for plant growth.

DylanD581 (author)2016-04-26

Awesome automated gardening system. It is very well designed. Did you consider adding a small pump and a soil moisture sensor to water the plants?

NTT (author)DylanD5812016-04-26

I was thinking the exact same thing. In fact, I was rather hoping it was already in there.

mikeghen (author)NTT2016-04-27

sorry to disappoint :( maybe plantbot gamma will have some more hardware ;)

mikeghen (author)DylanD5812016-04-27

Not yet. I tried to keep simple and I intend to add more hardware. I'm using capillary mat to keep things wet and I manually water the plants because I like to take care of them.

Akin Yildiz (author)2016-04-26

great work, i love the open source design.!!

are you familiar with my work.? you can easily implement smart plant technology and automate/monitor everything from your phone, under $20

mikeghen (author)Akin Yildiz2016-04-27

I love it! Nice hardware

GuidoPereira (author)2016-04-25

I wanted to know what Plants / Vegetables / Flowers do you Grow in there?

mikeghen (author)GuidoPereira2016-04-25

I've done lettuce, radish sprouts, kale, and some microgreen mixes which are mostly lettuces. I'm doing some carrots now and I plant to do some flowers next. If I can find a nice dwarf pepper plant, I'd like to try something that bares fruit. The light is very bright and I expect a fruiting plant will do nicely in the system.

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