How To: Localizing Food Production

October 21, 2016 | ProgressTH We've covered Curtis Stone, a Canadian urban farmer, before. In addition to running a successful urban farm of his own, he also provides advice to people seeking to start their own farms and encourages the creation of localized agricultural networks to support local food production. He also conducts workshops and puts a vast amount of information online to help others learn the technical, business, and ethical aspects of running a small farm.

His talk at Permaculture Voices provides a good introduction and summation of his work to date and provides inspiration and a starting point for others thinking about getting started with their own modern, organic urban farm.

Follow on Facebook here or on Twitter here.

Solar-Powered Moisture Sensor and Irrigation System

October 19, 2016 | ProgressTH At a recent FARM HACK event at FabCafe Bangkok, our team developed a working prototype for a solar-powered, Arduino-driven, soil moisture sensor and irrigation system.

It has a moisture sensor that triggers a servo-driven valve to open or close. It draws power from a store-bought power bank that we charge with a solar panel running through a 5 volt regulator. The power bank needs to be able to charge a device while also charging. If not, the circuit will turn off your project while it's charging.

The prototype was just to demonstrate the concept but it was far from ready to actually go outside in a rooftop garden. So we designed a weatherproof 3D printed case.

Hackathon Connects Farmers with Designers, Makers, and Engineers

October 17, 2016 | ProgressTH Things like laser cutters, 3D printers, and electronic prototyping tools like Arduino are often in the news and attract a lot of attention. But after seeing demonstrations, art projects, and toys, many people ask themselves, "what next?"

FabCafe Bangkok's FARM HACK helps answer that question by taking the maker, designer, and engineering community out of their respective spaces and placing them together with real-world farmers and the challenges they face to see if an innovation solution can be developed.

Last weekend, four teams matching two farmers up with two designers, engineers, or makers set out to do just this.

The Game Plan 

The event was carefully planned, providing a viable template for other events like it covering not only farming, but many other aspects of life as well. It began by bringing in guest speakers to present how they are already implementing social and technological innovations to improve farming. The purpose of this was to give teams a starting point and some ideas.

At the FARM HACK event, we heard from FarmD Asia, who uses basic ideas of automation to enhance agricultural processes, and in particular, indoor mushroom cultivation. There was a professor from a local agricultural university describing advances in agricultural robotics. And finally, we heard from Heart Core Organic, a very large and successful urban agriculture network in Bangkok that links urban farmers together, organizes farmers' markets, and raises public awareness regarding natural, local food.

Then the teams formed up and began working on their projects. These teams included activists working on egg farming as a means to raise money for hill tribe schools, a team focused on rooftop farming, and a conventional farm looking for a way to automatically plant seeds in starter trays.

The Results

In just two days several prototypes were created. A few years ago, not much more than drawing and maybe static models could have been created in a two-day hackathon. Today, thanks to the personal fabrication technology available at makerspaces like FabCafe, working prototypes are so easy to make, as one team pointed out, most of the time was spent on thinking of a solution, with digital design and fabrication almost an afterthought.