FabCafe Bangkok's FarmHack 2.0

December 13, 2016 | ProgressTH 

FabCafe Bangkok (Facebook) hosted their second FarmHack event last weekend, bringing together engineers, designers, and farmers to leverage the unique talent and technology that makerspaces bring together to solve agricultural problems.

Two teams formed to work on an Internet-connected weather station and a bee counter for measuring the health of beehives.

While being completely new projects, a lot of the knowledge acquired from the first FarmHack in October was applicable. For instance, the weather station, in its final form, will require solar power to operate. The first FarmHack event included a rooftop garden irrigation system that was solar powered and could be easily adapted to power the weather station.

In just two days, working prototypes of both ideas took shape.

The bee-counter team not only produced a working sensor for detecting bees, but also began creating an online application that visualized bee movements in and out of the hive. Employing the Particle Internet of Things (IoT) platform, they were able to send sensor data to the Internet.

The bee-counter team also branched off and created a beehive design that makes collecting honey less disruptive for beehive activity. A lot was learned about what works and what doesn't work, giving team members or future participants a clear starting point to move forward from if they decide to expand on this idea.

The weather station also utilized IoT platforms, including the NodeMCU development board and an online service called ThingSpeak to collect and visualize the environmental sensor data the prototype weather station was collecting (light level readings, temperature, and humidity). More details about this project can be seen here, including a live graph displaying temperature data collected from the prototype now operating at ProgressTH's office.

While farmers were unable to attend the event in person because it is now planting season in Thailand, they participated online. Both projects were conducted with advice and requirements provided by Raitong Organics, a Sisaket-based organic farm in Thailand. When the weather station is completed, it will be tested and refined at Raitong shortly after New Year's.

Eventually, the sensors will be used to automate certain aspects of farming, including irrigation. Farmers within the organic network from the Thai province of Phetchaburi ProgressTH has been working with, already automate irrigation using solar-powered pumps and timers. Adding in weather data and moisture senors to skip watering when enough moisture is present, or if it's raining (or about to rain), will help further conserve water.

FarmHack 3.0 is tentatively scheduled for March 2017. FabCafe Bangkok is also planning several medically-themed events based around the same premise.

Makerspaces proving that the talent and technology gravitating around local maker movements can be applied to practical solutions helps people realize the power of technical knowledge and the impact they themselves can have on their communities if they are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. It also encourages educators and ordinary people to get more involved in the maker community when they see the immediate benefits it has.

Follow ProgressTH.org on Facebook here or on Twitter here.