And you thought it just took sunlight and soil to raise a tomato. Will Bratton and Samuel Bagot believe a much better tomato can be brought to life in their horto domi (latin for “garden at home”) kit, which uses an Arduino ethernet link, an open source hardware platform and sensors to precisely monitor and automatically manage the temperature, light and moisture inside a small domed garden.
“Our goal is to produce open systems and hardware that produce healthy, clean food, conveniently, for individuals and families. We want to get past the mega-industrialized food production systems that are often more of a harm than a benefit to our health,” says Bratton in a Kickstarter pitch to raise funds to expand the horto domi project.
So free of chemical amendments and optimized for nutrient and mineral value, the produce grown in the dome is “beyond organic,” they say.
Their technological path to food independence consists of a raised bed garden that contains 30 square feet of growing space with “light heat and ventilation peripherals” built into a dome that covers the bed. Within it, the soil is separated into growing beds, with buried water sensors, and a “earthwork propagation bin that actively distributes earthworms throughout the bed.”
The conditions inside the dome are monitored and set through a web interface. So while this set-up could be as local as one’s backyard, the conditions inside the dome could be monitored by someone on the other side of the world.
The pair hope to use the Kickstarter funds to publish and share the plans but also expand the horto domi concept, building up to ten networked domes, or building a vertical lift system. In the longer run, they’d like to advance this area of research and development. As cities become more dense and if interest in self-sufficiency continues to grow, this approach to raising food in small spaces could catch on.
Sensors are widely used to monitor the conditions within high-value, sensitive crops such as wine grapes. But the horto domi concept shows the convergence of the maker culture, organic and local food advocates and high- and low-tech. So far, the horto domi is 47 days and around $7,000 from being funded.