The Solar-Powered IoT Rain-Barrel

A system for remotely activating a water distribution system for home gardens beds using the (IoT)Internet of Things. This project is fully open-source and is intended to address the world-scale problems of climate change and food insecurity by starting at home: making gardening more accessible and less time-consuming for the average citizen. Our intent is to make this process as simple as possible, allowing those with even no coding experience to bring the benefits of connected devices into their own home garden. Another goal is to power the system using solar energy in hopes of encouraging a more accessible attitude toward sustainable energy solutions.

Situation

When we drive to the grocery store, as most Americans do to get their food, we burn fossil fuels to get there. Likewise, the trucks that distribute that food from the farm to store are also burning immense amounts of fossil fuel along their trips. All of this driving back and forth is contributing heavily to the destabilization of our planet’s climate, and is ultimately unsustainable.

At Gutters To Gardens, we wanted to use our dual passions of horticulture and technology to do our part in addressing this problem. Our solution: If more people start their own personal gardens, there will be less need for all this driving! Not only that, we hope the more that people engage in the age-old human tradition of cultivating the land for food, the happier they will be.

As we set off on our research, we were happily surprised to find that gardening seems to be on the rise in the US. According to a report by the National Gardening Association, Garden To Table: A 5-Year Look At Gardening In America, one in three American households is now food gardening. The report goes on to state that the “total spent on food gardening rose 40% from $2.5 billion in 2008, to $3.5 billion in 2013.”

Though one-in-three is an impressive statistic, It would be nice to see this number rise even more over the next few years.

What is it that is keeping the other two thirds of Americans still driving back and forth from the supermarket to buy their tomatoes and cukes?

According to an article by Growertalks.com, TIME is “a leading factor regarding why people don’t garden. Most respondents stated that they lack the time due to variables such as work, family and other extracurricular activities. This made it clear that the opportunity cost of gardening was too high when compared to other activities.”

            A Graph From The Article: “A College Class Asks: Why Don’t People Garden?” by GrowerTalks.com

Could automation be the missing piece for the busy and the time-crunched to finally take the plunge into adopting a horticultural practice of their own?

We think so. That is why Gutters To Gardens has developed TechTOWER, an open-source system for automating drip-line irrigation in raised garden beds.

Vision

Provide people with tech-based solutions to common gardening problems. We’ll start with the initial TechTOWER system depicted above, which gives people the ability to control the flow of water in their gardens remotely. Whether that is from their home, using AI assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, or whether that’s from their mobile phone half-way across the world, the TechTOWER solution will work just the same. However, the TechTOWER in its current form is only the beginning. With this technology, it would be possible to integrate automated temperature and humidity sensors as well as deploying components like fans, lights, and opening and closing vents. With this system, it would also be possible to connect a camera as a kind of horticultural version of a baby monitor. The opportunities for innovating off of this initial platform are diverse and exciting. TechTOWER isn’t a product for people to buy; it is an open-source solution to a common problem, and others are free to adjust and improve upon it as needed. As more and more people begin incorporating solutions into the system, we hope to see a renaissance in sustainable energy and home food gardening across the globe.

Why not?

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