Electrical Engineering Department
BS in Electrical Engineering
What some experts call the “blue gold”; water is a major issue in this world. There is only so much water and the reliability and cleanliness of water is what many developing countries are dealing with today. Countries around the world are facing problems with reliable water to grow enough food for their villages and homes. Is there is a way to minimize water consumption while optimizing growth in plants for food? One solution can be seen through both Aeroponics and Aquaponics. This project explores the potential of providing larger quantities of food to areas where water may be in short supply. There are four main components: the cycle timer, solar panels, the Aeroponics / Aquaponics system, and live fish.
Aeroponics is a system thru which the roots are suspended in the air and saturated with water at designated time intervals. The benefit to this style of growing is the major reduction in water consumption compared to the traditional soil farming. With Aeroponics a farmer can grow certain types of food faster and bigger while using less water.
Aquaponics, the second system, utilizes a combination of fish and plants to create a balanced system. In this arrangement fish waste (ammonia) is converted into nitrate by two types of bacteria in a series of chemical reactions. The plants then use the nitrate rich water for growth while simultaneously “cleaning” the water for the fish and removing potentially harmful nitrogen buildup. Without each other’s contribution to the system, the system would fail. The grow bed is designed to be a filter for the fish and also a growing area for the plants. This type of filter is called a bio-filter, which has living bacteria that breakdown the ammonia. This process is called the nitrogen cycle.
According to Aquaponics Earth, Aquaponic systems can conserve up to 99.75% of the water used by continuously re-circulating the system. Also that Aquaponics uses 90% less water than conventional farming techniques (Aquaponics Earth, 2012)
The cycle timer is made with 4 integrated circuits; a 555 timer, two counter chips, and a flip-flop. The cycle timer was the most logical choice for this project as it allows the user to choose the specific ON / OFF times as required by the plants in the system.
One of the goals in this project was to be able to run this system virtually anywhere. This concept included the use of solar panels. The solar panels are used to charge the battery through a charge controller with the suns energy. The DC energy is then converted into AC through an inverter. The size or number of the solar panels will depend on the size of the grow system. Also, solar can be used as a backup system if the main power goes out.