Introduction: Box1

About: Please support and share our mission; the Plant Doctor is a non-profit, open source online research laboratory specializing in electronics+plants. Our vision is to bring together nature and technology in a s...

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box1 is a sealed environment for indoor gardening. it is open source hardware+software, which means that the end user can easily adjust any setting on it before building.


box1 is also equipped with a plant health monitor. it is wifi ready and can alert the user on their plant's health (e-mail). it is equipped with a webcam - can keep a time-lapse video log of growth. it also records the data collected on the cloud, and graphs it.


portable and light, yet very durable. hidden wheels & handles makes relocating box1 a breeze. [[ finger scan security with the smart glass technology ensures your privacy. switch between display / mood / lockdownmodes. ]]


it is solder free to build (PHM only for now), suitable for any age group. no prior electrical/programming experience required!

you can get box1 either as a DIY kit or a finished instrument. our kits are a great way to learn circuit building and programming.

interactive color changing light system teaches you how to garden, no prior gardening experience is required!



let's build..>

Step 1: Unboxing

you will receive 2 packages. package one will include the the laser cut frame and package two will include all hardware+electronics.


package #1 checklist

laser cut frame including display mode windows

get mood / lockdown


package #2 checklist




wood glue

nut (6-32) / bolt (6-32 x 2")

extension cord

garden wire



soil module

temperature module

light module


sd card




microcontroller x2

dc adapter (9V for microcontroller & 12V for fans)

wifi module

jumper cables

timer outlet


light system;


led driver


dc adapter

Step 2: Frame

the frame is laser cut with high precision, tiny amount of wood glue will do the job. carefully start assembling the pieces.


first attach the wheels + fan on the bottom and then glue all the acrylic covers to the side and front panels.


lay down the back panel, with the box1 logo facing down. glue the inner bottom and top panels first

after glue the side panels

and then glue the 2 small front panels.

wipe excess glue dripping from connections.


set your box on it's side/back and apply weight from above. wait minimum 2 hours (read glue directions) - leaving it untouched overnight will provide the best result.


test again how the door fits after the glue is set (do not glue the front panel).


**do not throw away any left over pieces that came with your frame. you can utilize the excess wood for other projects and/or to upgrade your plant box.

Step 3: Cooling System

handles act as air intake vents. the air enters the box from the upper chamber (electrical box).


the LED cooling fan directs the air downward, while the frame fan helps it exit through the false bottom (wheels box).


the fans are connected in parallel into the same adapter.


you can test the strength of the air flow by holding a lighter next to the intake holes.

Step 4: Electrical Compartment

wiring is simplified with the help of plug&play modules. use solder-free jumper cables to connect everything as shown. all connections are explained in the next steps.


first run the extension cord through the hole of the electrical box, this will give access to electricity for our components.


plug in the adapters for the fans and lights. plug in the adapter for the microcontroller.


add in the plant health monitor and connect it to the microcontroller adapter.

Step 5: Light System

box1 is equipped with a 12Watt full spectrum high power LED light. the light is ~$8 to operate per year (18hrs/day). it is very easy to build and customize.


use garden wire to hang the light. first attach the wires to each leg of the light.

locate the receiving holes on the electrical compartment

feed the wires through the hole and secure them around the little wooden blocks provided with the frame.


the system is now easy to height adjust. simply roll or unroll the wooden blocks to precisely adjust each corner. you can lower one side if the plant is shorter/taller.


Step 6: Plant Health Monitor

upload the code first, before connecting anything to the arduino. make sure to enter the network name/password and your thingspeak write API key into the code !!! (get a thingspeak account & link it with twitter account for instant e-mail alerts)

box1 twitter channel;

box1 thingspeak channel;


first we plug in the sensor modules + RGB led module

all positives (+) on all modules connect to > 3V3 on arduino

all negatives (-) on all sensors connect to > GND on arduino (not rgb led module)


connect the data cable on temperature module to > A0 on arduino

connect the data cable on water module to > A1 on arduino

connect the data cable on light module to > A2 on arduino


connect the Red leg of RGB module to > D11 on arduino

connect the Green leg of RGB module to > D10 on arduino

connect the Blue leg of RGB module to > D19 on arduino


now connect the wifi module

GND on wifi module to > GND on arduino

RX on wifi module to > TX on arduino

TX on wifi module to > RX on arduino

CH_PD on wifi module to > 3V3 on arduino

VCC on wifi module to > 3V3 on arduino


you can use the mini breadboard to gain more room for your connections.


everything is connected. connect the 9V adapter to arduino. go to your channel and watch the live data feed. play with the sensors to test correct operation.

remove water sensors from soil, blue light should come on, also twitter alert "i'm thirsty"

cover the light sensor with your hand, white light should come on, also twitter alert "i'm sleeping"



for more information on cloud updates;

Step 7: First Run + Adjustments

place the plant in the middle and insert the soil probes.


make sure that there are no cables touching the fan. check all electrical connections once again.


plug in the ac cable.


everything should be up and running. it may take upto 45 seconds for the plant monitor to turn on. make sure that your blinking light is green. if not refer to the color blinking for the problem.


check your thingspeak channel to see live data feed of your plant.

Step 8: Upgrades

design changes -frame upgrades . i would like to upgrade the door system first, some sort of a lock system activated with a fingerprint scanner.

rear access door (finger scan secured) - still needs to be designed

electrical compartment (finger scan secured)

magnetic front latch entrance (finger scan secured)

for more info;

switchable window covers - currently the system is equipped with magnetic switchable acrylic covers. the system will eventually be smart glass technology. finger scan will activate the glass to become clear immediately (authorized users only, or stay frosty). learn more about smart glass.

plant heat pad - environment changes - a heat pad for the colder climates will be necessary. eventually built in heat wires into the frame.

webcam. my system is currently equipped with a regular usb webcam. I have to plug in my laptop to take a picture. this is a cheap, manual camera upgrade. for an automated camera option, please refer to;

camera wiring;

arduino time-lapse camera;

tweeting camera;

wifi re-programmable / online app . currently the user has to connect to the microcontroller via usb cable to reprogram. with a spark photon, this problem will be solved.

lcd screen. the user will also be able to see the data feed with the on-board LCD screen attachment.


**these are the immediate/long term planned upgrades. I will update this step as I figure out new ideas..

Step 9: Conclusion

I want others to really put box1 to a test. I believe that it will be an effective tool for the professional gardener or a great help to a true beginner. never before seen growth data, automatically collected and archived. easily achievable on the cloud. live video stream.. clone one today !


box1, as well as our other plant care instruments have been developed with the help of amazing authors/users of instructables community. this is why I created a non-profit organization, the plant doctor. I am planning on collecting donations through kickstarter in pursuit of donating these instruments to k-12 science classrooms. where children can learn how a plant grows as well as circuit building + computer programming at any age group.


if you liked this project and would like to help it grow, please donate. our vision is to bring together nature and technology in a simple, non-harmful way. By educating the end user, we guarantee the success of our mission - change the world, one plant at a time...


I have an idea for a webpage where all of our plant care instruments are automatically members of. plant's with their own "facebook" profiles. updating their statuses on their own. imagine a child who is trying to do research on a certain strain/type of plant who can search this database, find, refine search by age of plant, location.. etc. watch the growth of the plant and study it's historical data. - visit for more information.


let me know if you would like to be a contributor to this project (i need help), my programming skills are far from being decent :) . all donations and contributions are listed publicly on our webpage (unless otherwise noted).


thank you for your interest, please remember to vote & subscribe.

love & peace


Step 10: Updates

i am in the process of cutting a new frame and also building a new fan-less light system, stay tuned - 03/19/2015



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    21 Discussions

    Hi Akin

    You mention above that box1 comes as a kit. Where can I find a link to buy the kit?
    Otherwise, is the parts list above complete or do you have a file with the complete parts list?
    Lastly, is it possible to also connect a pump?

    Kind Regards,


    4 replies

    hello Petrus,

    i'm working as fast as i can with the kits. currently i'm focusing mostly on the smart plant pot kits. the list above is accurate, however you can also check out this list for the plant pot, the electronics inside are the same; where do you live.?


    about the pump. you can use this 3V pump, just put the water above the plant; and you can easily release it automatically based on soil levels. i have purchased a few of these pumps but still no time to put it together. the above electronics compartment in box1 will have a plastic water storage unit and a pump eventually and feed it to the plant with aquarium tank tubing. you would just treat the pump as an LED, turn on/off based on sensor data. it's very simple.. or you can even add relays and control AC outlets, equally as easy.

    let me know if this helps at all, maybe we can work out a kit. especially if you are in USA right now, shipping the frame for box1 may cost a little extra internationally..

    Hi Akin, thank you for your reply! I live in South Africa, we have a small farm and I would like to use this in our greenhouse. Thus I'm really interested in using your design/hardware/software/configuration for automating our greenhouse.

    My most basic needs are:
    - Sensing soil moisture, greenhouse humidity and greenhouse temperature
    - automatically controlling a pump (based on soil moisture) and fan (based on temperature/humidity) according to sensor readings
    - being able to access data and manually control system over wifi

    It seems like box1 could be able to do all of this. I've seen many other projects but I like your designs the best.

    It would be really great if you can put together a kit for me. I will not need the frame etc, only all the electronics and software...

    Kind Regards,

    would you like to give me a general address so i can calculate shipping. you can private message me here. also you can tell me how many sensors of each you need. i may be able to put together something for you real quick. basically i'm asking how big the greenhouse is.

    looks great Akin.
    I actually made something like that. In the winter I can put it inside, insulated with refelective foam and an LED lamp in it. In the summer I open it up and can put it outside. It is a light weight frame that I just click the insulating foam too, or cover with clear plastic if i put it outside.
    Has a microcontroller take care of irrigation, heating, fan etc.

    2 replies

    it would be great if you could share a picture. sound amazing, i'm sure it's lots of help. because this thing is very very useful..

    i'm already working on making a newer version, hopefully make them per order, with the code we've been working on inside of it, including electronics kit etc.


    i still have some questions about the code btw, i will reach out to you soon :)


    Using a passive heatsink and kind of a chimney "might" get you rid of fans at all.
    The fan depicted in there is optional, it might work without it, which would be cool.
    Great work btw, voted ;)

    Chimney bottom.jpgChimney top.jpg
    3 replies

    Yep, yesterday.

    See additional drawings for my suggestions for improving airflow and getting a step closer to passive cooling. Just sketches. Cable managment still unsolved.

    airflow 1.jpgairflow 2.jpgairflow 3.jpgairflow 4.jpgairflow 5.jpgairflow 6.jpg

    wow this is great.!!
    i really appreciate you taking the time to draw this. it is very eye opening. the air direction is completely reversed compared to my design above :) seems promising.. very good input, thank you