Intelligent Gardening with the SeaDAC Lite

June 7, 2010

We all want some of the tasks we do every day to complete themselves. Thermostats have replaced fireplaces and fans; lights turn on in the presence of people; and even our door locks can be locked remotely. By eliminating trivial or time consuming tasks with intelligent control systems, our days and lives run more smoothly. I see other situations in my life that could be automated with ease, but there are no commercially available products (at a reasonable price point). This spring I took it upon myself to bring some home-brewed intelligent control to my own life.

Interested in creating an intelligent system of my own, I set out to create a simple control system for my garden. Inspired by the Garduino garden system (based on the Arduino prototyping platform), I began researching ways to automate starting seeds. Early in the spring, I picked up one of Sealevel’s SeaDAC Lites with Form C relays and set about making this idea come to life. Using an old PC, I hooked up the SeaDAC lite and wrote a few lines of simple code on Visual Studio Express. Using the SeaDAC Lite’s low I/O count, I saved on complexity, but had access to four high-voltage relays to control several sets of grow lights in addition to inputs I could use for future expandability. At this point, the control was simply an overcomplicated timer, but within a week, I had added a float sensor and a small DC pump to water my newly sprouting seedlings daily. With the addition of a webcam to the system for time-lapse photography, I had a fully operational gardener and photographer without having to hire anyone.

By using a SeaDAC Lite, I saved hundreds of dollars over automated garden systems, and I am able to customize my system any way I please. I may have spent a little extra time setting up the system and weeding out a few bugs in my code, but by the time my seedlings were transplanted, I had a robust system exactly to my liking. Inspired by the ease I had in creating such a system, I continued implementing intelligent controls in my life. The desk lights in my office are now automated, and I have plans on expanding my garden system to log data and be accessible from any internet accessible device.