Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Phase One of CD-OS Aquaculture Closet Lab!

I spent tonight out in an extremely cold lab lining my mini-hydroponics tent with mylar space blankets.

You've probably seen these before. They are sold worldwide in most home and garden supply shops. I thought I would use this as the basis of my first proof-of-concept CD-OS project because it is so common. A complete fully automated aquaponics lab the size of a broom closet designed to provide vegetables, fruits, salad and fish to complement a food storage program.

My planned design had four requirements :

  1. Should fit into a broom closet.
  2. Completely automated and monitored by CD-OS around the clock using ubiquitous modbus components and controls, preferably over a cheap Modbus TCP-IP router.  
  3. Should run on extremely low current and voltage, preferably a solar panel or two.
  4. Must be temperature controlled so as to maintain a hothouse environment even in arctic conditions. (Ice Age II, Nuclear winter or supervolcano eruption)

I ordered a couple space blankets off EBay at about .99 cents each and they arrived tonight. You can often find these mylar foil sheets sold as "emergency blankets" or "survival blankets."
After lining the inside with these blankets I stood inside it for a couple minutes. Despite it being extremely cold in my lab, I noticed the instant I covered all four walls in the interior that a very strange thing began to happen. It began to grow quite warm just from my body heat very rapidly. After about four minutes I almost felt I was starting to sweat. When I stepped from the interior through the curtain it was still incredibly cold on the outside! This stuff works amazingly well and at .99 cents for two square meters you can't complain about the expense. Highest recommendation.

The number one use of the mylar foil was to reflect as much light as possible inside the hydroponics tent so none was wasted. I knew that the mylar had some insulating capacity but was expecting it would need supplementation with a low current heat source which I also ordered last week and have already tested.

The one drawback of LED lighting strips is that they don't generate much heat but if they even generate a little that might be enough to heat the interior considerably with the mylar foil insulation. I have a low current device to heat the fish water to keep it from freezing and a low current air heater that is intended to only come on when it is needed to "top off" the internal temperature. All of these components will be part of an integrated design that is intended to be plug-n-play with a matching CD-OS module that is ultimately implemented as nothing more than a couple Lua scripts for the server.

So far I have spent about a hundred bucks including all modbus parts for this closet but I expect there are even cheaper ways to construct it. The big challenge is building a modbus component for measuring water PH without spending $500.00 on that sensor. I think I have it figured out. I bought a $9.00 PH sensor that is supposed to plug into a dedicated unit that I am going to interface with a DAC to modbus circuit with perhaps $10.00 worth of electronic parts. I have not built that yet but I figure it will take a bit of testing to get that right. I am going to connect the cheap PH sensor across an existing modbus voltage meter sold on Ebay for around $10.00 and hope it can be calibrated to yield the right values. If that works it will be the only tough component to provide inexpensively.
I got the idea about the super cheap mylar when I was inspired by these expensive units they sell to dope growers. I was trying to mimic this environment for only a couple dollars instead of a grand. I think my idea is going to work! Man, if these dope fiends spent as much energy on the rest of their life they'd have enough money to move out of their parent's garage and get a place of their own.


Ryan David G said...

Have you worked out the nutrients you'd need to add to your system in terms of fertilizer, fish food etc? I ask because I'm wondering if you'll have a large storage area to keep years/decades worth of inputs to the system, or if you'll go for the more ambitious closed-loop approach of using compost heaps for food scraps, possibly processing tanks to recycle human waste, etc. Both approaches have their own particular challenges, for example in terms of ventilation if you're storing large amounts of fertilizer or composting waste.

I remember your previous setup had a separate "chicken blast shelter" which was quite a handy addition in terms of converting food scraps into usable protein while keeping the smell and waste in a sealed-off area.

Texas Arcane said...


The aquaponics is a way to route around having to mix and blend your own fertilizer. The fish wastes cycled correctly through a pump forms a closed loop which provides the plants with everything they need and the fish's water can be conditioned and cleaned at the same time. That's why I chose it for the first release version. So simple that as long as the fish and plants don't freeze, IJW (It just works) in any conditions.

Dude said...

Fungi will probably grow on the mylar, not only that your led's will eventually kill it, if they are proper full light spectrum led's, which means uv/uvbs. If it was me I would use the best non-degradable material, being as the inferior material(mylar) degrades the chemicals end up in your food... I would suggest using full spectrum led's too, otherwise your food will be inferior, and you'll have more fungi problems.

For heat I would just use a fish tank heater, have your low watt heater fan hooked up to a temperature sensor.

The led's will use most of the power, I recon 2 solar panals, with a genny back up with two truck batteries would do it, for a full spectrum light, water heater, fans ect...

Other then that make sure you buy some pH probe cleaner and calibrating solutions.

For nutrients, I find only Iron chelate and trace minerals needs to be added to the water, the rest comes from the food.

Another handy hint, every 2 to 3 months you'll have to clean the water filter, be it the media in the vege beds, or a pre-filter. That waste can be used to grow cucumber, tomatoes or fruit trees.

KW Jackson said...

LED's aren't full spectrum light. They're quite limited. Osram golds are the optimum grow LED's based on independent tests. Fungi need low light, high damp, and little air movement. It's unlikely Tex will make those mistakes considering his past shelters.

I've gone the polycarb greenhouse route. It's expensive but a strong wind won't destroy it like those plastic grow tents with shelves. In a well-sheltered from NW winds position - we're in the same city - the tent ought to do well. Biggest win is automated watering that responds to the soil drying out. Tensiometer based automatic watering has some impressive yields.

Texas Arcane said...


All VERY USEFUL! Thanks!

I knew the LEDs don't provide a full spectrum so I planned to mix red-blue-green with white all day long cycling. I will look at those OSRAM golds immediately! My wife is gonna be angry I bought all those other LED lights already for the greenhouse.

I knew there are four ways to avoid mold, fungi and diseases in the hydroponics lab - please add other information if you have it.

1. Keep oxygen bubbling through aquaponics constantly with occasional drops of hydrogen peroxide.
2. Keep air circulating through regularly. Warmer temps require more circulation.
3. Routinely cycle UV Led light (new LEDS have much more effective spectrum of UV than 5 years ago) and pump ozone in at least once a day just enough to suppress holds.
4. Supplement with iron, magnesium and potassium to keep immune systems of plants strong.

When I read your post I was working on my markdown expert system database that tells the user how to look at the plant and identify what supplements may be needed depending on plant health! This markdown system is designed to support every system in the shelter with simple Q&A to reach answers on anything in the web browser.

KW Jackson said...

Osram golds are not cheap. One thing to add to your expert system database is whether the plant has a vegetative state - that is, a state in which it does not need darkness and will grow 24/7.

Dude said...

The main reason you'll get mold from the Mylar is the tiniest gaps will let moist air into the space between your mylar and tent, or broom cupboard walls. That is where the fungi will grow guarantee it. You may tape it up well, tape comes apart and torn holes that you may not notice happen over time with such a product.

I'd say trust me, but it's better to learn the hard way and waste money for some before they take your expertise seriously. Yours is computer engineering(I think Tex) mine is aquaponics, hydroponics, permaculture and husbandry. Hell I could be an agronomist if so desired. I can even divine ground water.

You have the air circulation down pat.

Ozone recommended, once a day, it works. Even clean your water 24 hours beforehand too.

You could use the H2O2 everyday, that will kill all the bad bacteria and fungi, as well as the beneficial stuff. I would H2O2 the system initially at the start, or when any new media, plants are added to the system, hopefully your water is fairly purified. After the H2o2 process has been completed give it 24 hours I'd add a beneficial bacteria, fungi and enzyme additive.

Having Air bubblers has more cons then pros IMO, as it can rapidly alter the pH would be a major con. I'd rather use gravity to reoxygenate which can be accomplished via a flood and drain system, plus it means you only need a water pump not an air pump. Less pH fluctuations that way too.

I wouldn't use the tensiometer watering system, as the organic nutrients will block up the tubing eventually. Though tensiometers are great when using plain water. The German made ones are called blumats.

There's more to the full spectrum then red, blue and white...That is not full spectrum or what is considered it anyway. Nothing is as full spectrum as the sun.Interestingly some companies are trying to replicate the rising and going down of the sun, as that is when a certain UVB is at it's highest concentration, which actually signals the different seasons to the vegies.

Notice all the pictures of Leds for sale growing fruit are in glass houses... Rumor has it they are good for veg, but suck for fruit and flowers.

Dude said...

you could use the red and blue leds to sprout and grow greens. Full spectrum for fruit.

make your own malts from the sprouts. Brew room making CO2, you could integrate that into your circulation to the the grow lab. Plus the brew room would be a good place to grow mushrooms.

To maximize the surface area of a bunker grow lab you could put multiple levels use a pully winch with a slow electric crank to slowly move the light between levels...

I could draw up a concept for you.

Just give me the number of fish you want, I can give you the square meter for space and volume of media, I do recommend a prefiltter...

Or you could just give me the space and I can work from there.

Texas Arcane said...


You're absolutely right. I'm not a hydroponics expert but a computer software engineer trying to apply the same software paradigm to a whole range of problems. I really expect that I have to get it into open source and then depend on feedback to get it perfect. I intend to do the initial prototype of the permaculture lab and then get feedback from people who implement it themselves and learn how to make it better. I will then incorporate these changes back into the software and monitoring systems to end up with something much better than I could have done solely on my own.

This is a two meter long one meter wide aquaculture setup with plants on shelves left and right, grow columns at back and on the floor below them a small pool about one square meter 8 inches deep which will have silver perch, glass shrimp and yabbies. I have a pump for the water to circulate it continuously and a low voltage air pump to bubble the pool. My plan at present is to pump the pool to the top and left gravity drain it down through all beds and columns with gravity. I am not certain how often this should happen.

Kyle Duck said...

Hey Tex, have you seen this?

URL is self-explanatory.

Dude said...

How many access points doors do you have? 3 would be good, 2 minimum.

For a concrete bunker type, get organic or non-petroleum based pond liner paint. To paint the floor say up the walls 10 inches, pond liner(double protection on leaks)with plastic frame, joins and all for a pond. A white marine paint "Organic" if you can, which is anti-fungal, water and UV proof, for the walls and ceiling. 3 layers of paint and pond liner and it's water/anti-fungal proofed for 10-20 years.

I would use Hydroton expanded clay pebbles for media, as maximum surface area for the beneficial bacteria as a filter in all your trays and columns. The media at the start of the gravity feed will block up the most over time so make that part more accessible, for cleaning. Half the surface of the pond could be put to aquatic plants.

The water level in the trays should be one inch below the surface of Hydroton, to prevent algae and fungi growth.

I suggest perhaps using the whole base and floor as a 2 x 1 meter 8 inch high pond. I'll do the calculation for capacity of both areas and how much media is needed to filter... So you get maximum yield of fish and plants.

Watering in a flood and drain system is intermediate, 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off is sufficient, be it aquapoinc or hydroponic. A good balance for the fish and plants. Plants that are not aquatic need dry times for the roots to grow and absorb nutrients.

How's this I found I was wrong on the bubblers due to the biosphere being purely aerobic, "Durrr". So maximum dissolved Oxygen is good, for fish, filtration and nutrients. In fact going off one forum it would be a considerable energy input. You could still grow off gravity, flood and drain will oxygenate it, though you would have smaller yields of veg and fish, which also translates into less inputs. So yeah air bubbler in the tank...Ha I have this coming back in my memory now, as I've read it before...

It's all trade offs, so systems can be very adaptable to different inputs.

Aquaponics has been big in Australia I've been studying and mucking around with it off and on since 2004. There's good info on the forums and blogs. Yabbies first got me into it.

OK, going off these really great sites info.

2x1x0.8 = about 20 to 40 Pounds of fish.

so a 1x1xo.8 = 10 to 20 pounds of fish.

You need a little more media volume then the fish tank volume for the filter beds to be effective.

Another good point if a sump tank can be incorporated to stop the pond water level from dropping too much when it's flooding might be a good idea.

heterotrophic bacteria is added weekly.

The pH in these systems will vary this is normal and needed as plants absorb different nutrients at different pH levels. Plus the root biosphere changes the pH through different cycles in the plants life cycle.

From one of the articles.

"Target a pH of about neutral, or 6.8 – 7.0, in your aquaponic system. This is a compromise between the optimal ranges of the fish, the plants, and the bacteria. For fish, this is a pH of around 6.5 to 8.0. For plants, this is a pH of around 5.0 to 7.0 and for bacteria it is a pH of 6.0 to 8.0."

pH will be the main maintenance it can be automated. You have to keep a watchful eye on that failure point, as it will kill your fish and plants or cause deficiencies,before you know it. At least the temperature in an underground bunker would be constant.

Man I hope ITZ doesn't happen, I like damns, creeks, rivers and the sea.

When I move I will build one of these systems, but this won't happen for awhile 24 months. The bigger the system the more stable too.

Anyway any question with this stuff, or unknowns I'm pretty good at figuring out the problems. So email me if you need...