Urban Agriculture: DIY Hydroponics Shelf

December 2, 2017 | ProgressTH We have experimented with indoor gardening before. Using 30W and now 50W LED floodlights, and a wide range of grow boxes and grow shelves, the final and most efficient iteration has been our hydroponics shelf.

The original hydroponics shelf (above) used MDF panels covered with aluminium tape and a 5V fan from an old grow box experiment. The red plastic covers were 3D printed, but virtually any sort of opaque plastic can be used as a cover.

The shelf began as a steel STACKO brand heavy duty shelf we attached the MDF panels of an old DIY grow box onto, including a 5V fan for air circulation. We added an aquarium air pump to aerate the AB nutrient solution put into modified 6L plastic water bottles. Foam squares were fitted into 3D printed covers to hold the plants in place.

We managed to grow several salads' worth of greens so far, and there are now many more on the way.

After much trial and error, it seems the shelf system is the winner and we will be focusing on improving it.

We've already replaced the MDF boards with plastic future board. MDF soaks up moisture and encourages mold growth.

We cut a small square away from the first layer of the future board and embedded 13mm diameter neodymium magnets (from Daiso) underneath before sealing them in with clear packing tape. These magnetic panels hold onto the steel shelf well enough to support the weight of a large 12V fan. The 12V fan provides a great deal more air circulation than the old 5V fan, preventing mold and moving the heat from the LEDs away from the greens more efficiently.

The current hydroponics shelf (above) uses magnetic future board panels covered with aluminium tape. The 12V fan can be seen on the left-hand side, embedded in a future board panel. and 2 50W LED flood lights hang from above. There is also an aquarium air pump on top of the shelf aerating the nutrients in the containers via silicon tubing and aquarium air line splitters. 

We're still using 2 50W LED flood lights but plan on designing and implementing LED strips to minimize vertical room taken up by the flood lights and dividing the space into two shelves instead of the current one. 

We also plan on replacing the 6L water bottles with glassware (jars or trays) because the less plastic involved the better. Automation still needs to be implemented for the lighting, the fan, and possibly even circulating nutrients.

The most interesting aspect of this urban agriculture experiment is that everything we're using has come from ordinary shops easily found around Bangkok:

We want to work with this design until we are able to manage growing enough greens to eat at least every other day on a 3 or 4 shelf system. Everything will be documented and shared. If you want to join in and start your own hydroponic shelf and contribute to this experiment with your experience, feel free to contact us