AstroPlant Maker LITE Edition (Araiva, Spain)

A beautiful project by Miguel Riola and his 10 year old son.

INTRODUCTION

We have recently involved in the AstroPlant Citizen Science Project. After building our first Maker Edition (ME) we considered to do some changes to save costs of materials to build the kit. Below you will find details about main features of our Maker LITE Edition (MLE), drawings to build this version of AstroPlant and other materials you can download for free The AstroPlant is an open-source design under the CERN Open Hardware Licence. Check the official AstroPlant website.

New features in MLE are:

1.- New design, smaller size, low-cost 2.- A power supply unit hounsing made in plywood (lasercut) 3.- A DIY hydroponic kit using IKEA 365+ containers 4.- A front window to check nutrient solution level 5.- Side handles

Unfortunately, we do not have building instructions at the moment. You can follow instructions of Maker Edition in the AstroPlant setup guide website considering changes described in this article. Feel free to email us if you have any question.

MAIN FEATURES IN THE LITE Edition

New design, smaller size, low-cost

We have reduced the size of ME to save costs, make it lighter and easily portable. The new MLE is a 312312 mm. size (instead of 422422 mm. in ME) and 680 mm. of height (instead of 1157 mm. in ME). See picture to compare size between the ME and MLE.

Top view 1
Top view 2
Front view
MLE vs ME
Backside view
Top view 1
Top view 2
Front view
MLE vs ME
Backside view

The new height should give you enough space for basil to grow freely inside the chamber within 40 days of experimentation. See Growth, yield, plant quality and nutrition of basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) under soilless agricultural systems (Subhrajit Saha, Amber Monroe, Martin R. Day, 2016). This scientific research shows the basil grows about 300 mm. under a hydroponic system for 6 weeks (40 days). The new case gives you this 300 mm. and an extra of 40 mm. (total height 340 mm.).

New power supply unit housing

MLE includes a new power supply unit housing made in plywood to avoid the extra-cost of printing 3D plastic pieces. Of course, you can keep the original design if you have special interest to work with digital 3D-printig processes or if you have a printer that fit your needs. If you prefer to save money you should choose the plywood design . The power supply unit is screwed on the backside of the case.

P.S.U. Housing
P.S.U. Rear view
P.S.U. Housing
P.S.U. Rear view

A DIY hydroponic kit

We have built a new hydroponic kit using IKEA 365+ containers and some plastic pieces you can acquire in aquarium shops or AliExpress for a couple of euros.

Solution container
Plant container
Alternative plant container
Solution container
Plant container
Alternative plant container

Go to the section Build your hydroponic system to get BOM and instructions

Because these are translucent containers, we have added a fixed front piece in the AstroPlant case below the sliding door to avoid the light and growth of algae.

Possible configurations:

Configuration #1 (typical and maybe the best choice):

Using the plant container inside the solution container you will have about 2,5 L of capacity for nutrient solution.

Solution container + Plant container

Configuration #2 (alternative to have an extra height inside the grow chamber):

Using the plant container as solution container and the alternative plant container you will have some extra height inside the grow chamber in case of wishing to deal with plants exceeding maximum height of 340 mm. To do this you must place the containers with the base plate in the low position. You have now a second pair of L shapes attached to the case and a mobile hydroponic base plate.

Plant container (as solution container) + Alternative plant container

Probably this configuration is not the best choice due to the small capacity for nutrient solution and plant roots. We urge you to demonstrate the viability of using this option .

The option of a mobile hydroponic base plate forced us to think of another solution to support the sliding door (in ME the hydroponic base plate is in a fixed position supporting the sliding door). Now you have a new L shape supporting the door.

A front window to check nutrient solution level

Picture shows the new and small front window to check level of nutrient solution over the fixed front piece.

Side handles

To limit the AstroPlant height we have removed the handholds located at top in the side panels and attached a new couple of IKEA handles.

Item

Ikea Ref.

Link

Cost

Side handles

703.236.00

https://www.ikea.com/es/es/p/billsbro-tirador-col-acinox-70323600/

5

BUILD YOUR DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEM

Follow instructions, BOM and details to build a new DoItYourself hydroponic kit using common and cheaper materials to be used in the AstroPlant Maker LITE Edition (MLE). This design fits only in the MLE so you should build this version of AstroPlant first. For the original Maker Edition (ME) you will need the original Waterfarm hydroponic kit.

Hydroponic systems

We have designed a new low-cost hydroponic system using IKEA 365+ food containers but keeping in mind the original system used in the AstroPlant project (Drip System). If you wanted to avoid the air compressor to save money, maybe you could adopt a Hydroponic Passive System.

Passive Systems use a capillary (plants roots partial submerged) or wick system to deliver nutrients directly to a plants roots. Passive Systems are incredibly simple and they do not even require electricity to function, however, require you to change the water more frequently than any other hydroponic system.

Since there is no pump, there is nothing to stop algae from growing and soiling the water quality. Passive Systems also are not as efficient at recovering nutrients, as there is no way to recover what is not directly absorbed by the plants. These systems work but are not viewed as the best option for those looking to grow hydroponically.

If you decide to use a Passive System you should give details about it when you submit your Excel sheet with measurements of your basil experiments to the AstroPlant team.

Bill of materials

IKEA 365+ container

Item

Ikea Ref.

Shop link

Cost

Solution container

603.930.66

IKEA 365+ food container 4,2 L

3

Plant container

603.591.52

IKEA 365+ food container 2,0 L

2

Alternative plant container

403.591.48

IKEA 365+ food container 1,0 L

1,5

The AstroPlant Maker Lite Edition was designed specifically for these containers. If you wanted to use any other container you should change the base support drawing

Using the plant container inside the solution container you will have about 2,5 L of capacity for nutrient solution.

Air-lift system

To design an airlift solution similar to that included in the Waterfarm, you will need a rigid plastic pipe and an air compressor with a flexible tube (see picture with the operating principle of an airlift system).

To drive air inside the pipe you must connect the flexible air tube to the lower section of the water pipe. To do this and if you have a 3D printer, maybe you can search on the Internet to find a 3D model of a venturi air injector, similar like that in picture. If not, you can always look for another way to connect both elements.

As alternative, if you are an aquarist you will probably know the grave cleaners used to remove algae and any other dirt from aquariums (see picture). This cleaner uses the same working principle and it is perfect for our purpose. It has a rigid pipe to lift water and a thinner second one to drive air into the lower section of the water pipe. You will not need the upper section of the cleaner (it is removable). This type of gravel cleaner can be found in aquariums shops or, maybe you can conduct a search in Amazon or AliExpress. This will be our choice for the hydroponic kit.

An airlift system works fine if you make a correct choice about water pipe length and diameter. A good choice could be a 7-12 mm. diameter (aquarium grave cleaners is about 10 mm.). It can be useful to test it with the IKEA solution container full or half water. Water flow depends on the submerged part of the water pipe (hs) and the lift height above the water (hl), see picture showing the working principle.

Item

Shop links

Cost

Gave cleaner

Grave cleaner (Amazon)

11

Air compressor

Air compressor (AliExpress)

4

Follow technical details of the air compressor used in the original Waterfam kit, but you can use any other aquarium compressor with similar specifications and probably cheaper.

  • Air flow: 1,3 L/min.

  • Aire pressure 12KPa

  • Noise level 40dB.

  • Power consumption 1,8 W

Accessories

We will need some extra accessories to complete our hydroponic kit:

L-Connector
Y-Connector
PVC Hose
L-Connector
Y-Connector
PVC Hose

Item

Shop link

Cost

8/8 mm. L-Connector

8/8 mm. L-Connector (AliExpress)

1,4 (5 pieces)

8/8/8 mm. Y-Connector

8/8/8 mm. Y-Connector (AliExpress)

1,5 (5 pieces)

8/10 mm. PVC Hose

8/10 mm. PVC Hose (AliExpress)

1,4 (1 m.)

Building the kit

First: Make holes into the plant container

You must make holes into the plant container to allow water to be recovered by the solution container. 4 or 5 mm. of diameter should be enough. It is a good idea to drill two bigger holes to prevent overflows. The upper-left hole is for the water pipe and the air tube.

Second: Mount the water pipe and drip ring

Some gravel cleaners have a telescopic pipe that it is an interesting feature to adapt it to the heights container, this is our case. Picture shows L and Y connections to the water pipe and the drip ring. Y-connector is a little long for our system so, we have cut the first section on every side.

Drip ring has nine equidistant small holes of 2mm.

All parts ready to assembly.

Third: Build the kit

Pictures show several views of the kit fully assembled and working.

Maybe this could not be the best design for these small containers but we have tried to keep the original AstroPlant system. We will try to optimize this solution in the future.

An finally the AstroPlant hydroponic kit in action

DOWNLOADS

CAD drawings and BOM can be downloaded from our GitHub repo:

https://github.com/AstroPlant/Casing/tree/master/LiteEd or...

http://araiva.es/the-astroplant-maker-lite-edition

CREDITS

Please, feel free to contribute, improve our documents or email us with questions, we appreciate any feedback. Find us on http://araiva.es

Miguel A. Riola Master & Commander [email protected]

Marco Riola 10 years old young engineer Technical solutions & drawings

Leo Riola 6 years old astrophotographer