Aquaponic Gardening

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Anybody have a location to purchase monitors that I can use for online (web) access.  I want to monitor my system when I am on travel.  Someone had a system on youtube but he did not give any suggestions on the hardware it would take.  I am looking to monitor PH, PPM, Nitrite levels, etc. 

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During cool weather, like next time I leave town, I expect not feeding won't have too much effect since it's cold and they are not eating too much anyway, just maintaining.  However, in summer I fear if I were to not feed at all, the smaller fish would become food.  Of course in warm weather, over feeding or anything going wrong can have a worse effect on water quality and dissolved oxygen so I probably do want some way to visually check things in warm weather.

 

Heck, I expect a fish web cam on my web site might be a popular addition too but figuring out how to mount it and get light to it in my covered tanks is a challenge.

I think your on track with the Webcam. I think it's a great way to start remote monitoring.

Point it at a thermometer, phmeter, ....

It doesn't require too much skill, has immediate results, and is resonably priced.

It can be viewed from in the house, or accross the country.

If you have a dedicated internet connection, and a wireless router, you already have 2/3 of your parts.

I've been impressed with DLinks products. Here is a wireless webcam for under $100

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001764PVQ/ref=asc_df_B001764PVQ1397400?sm...

If your greenhouse is too far awy for a decent wireless connection, this weatherproof wireless radio will extend the range significantly. Also handy if you want to hook anything else up to your internet. (automation)

http://www.ubnt.com/nanostation

First, hook everything up according to instructions and test from a house computer. Don't even attempt remote access if you can't see it from a house computer.

The first remote access hurdle: Similar to your telephone, a computer needs a unique phone number(IP address in computer terms) in order to be remotely accessed. Unlike your telephone, the IPaddress that is assigned to your computer when you access the internet can change from time to time. You would never notice this when you're just surfing the internet because your 'dialing out' and don't need to know your number, but... when you're away from home and you want to  remote in you need to know what number to dial.

Solution: Dynamic DNS

A popular application of dynamic DNS is to provide a residential user's Internet gateway that has a variable, often changing, IP address with a well known hostname resolvable through standard DNS queries.

That means instead of remembering a number, you can register a name (an internet address) that keeps track of your computers changing IP address. This is provided as a free service from several providers, I use no-ip.com

The second remote access hurdle: Most wireless accesspoints APs (wireless router) also act as firewalls. Firewalls protect your computers from unauthorized access. By default, your wireless router wil not allow access to your webcam, this has to be turned on (open ports). This procedure varies from router to router. Your webcam instruction generally explain how to do this.

 

If you want webcam plus some simple automation, these work great.

http://www.smarthome.com/2412N/SmartLinc-INSTEON-Central-Controller...

 

Here is a Insteon controller controlling a christmas light display i set up last year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8g2AB-eirTM

 

 

 

I've used Dynamic DNS from a company called DynDNS.com for years.  They offer free service if you are willing to use one of their domain names -- like myapsystem.dyndns.org.  But there are other issues that make it nearly impossible to offer a one size fits all solution to this kind of problem.  Some internet service providers (comcast appears to be one) block all incoming connections to residential customers.  You have to get a business grade connection to get in (easily and normally) from the outside world.  I think this will become more prevalent in the future.  My internet provider is Earthlink and they don't block anything incoming or outgoing except for unauthenticated outgoing email and that worked once I set it up right.  But it costs a little more than the run-of-the-mill providers.

 

Oh thanks for that info Darrin, John,

Those are the kind of tips that help me get into the mindset to figure this stuff out.

 

Question.  Seeing as I have a web site, is there some way to set up a server in a box or computer at home to send the web cam and other info out to a secure portion of my web site?  Or if I wanted, have the web cam visible on the web site.  Would having something at my house sending the info out bypass the problem of residential service blocking incoming connections?

 

I don't even know if that would be a problem here as I've not checked yet.  I'm on Brighthouse.

 

Having a computer at your house sending the information to your website would be by far the easiest and most reliable way.  There wouldn't be the incoming connection issue or a need for dynamic dns.


I'm not at all well informed with what's out there in the windows world these days but there are many ways to get the information transferred.  The X10 wireless camera linked in an earlier reply might be just the ticket.  I have an older X10 wireless camera and its still working as well as when I bought it but its a video camera and so the resolution isn't all that good especially compared to some of the cheap still cameras out there.    Some still cameras can be operated through a USB connection and they do make wireless usb extenders (2.0 is expensive though).

 

Not sure where you'd want to start but it would probably be cheapest to figure out how to get a picture from your camera to your website in the simplest (and most automated way) possible with your current equipment before spending the money on something that may not be able to do some critical step.


TCLynx said:

Oh thanks for that info Darrin, John,

Those are the kind of tips that help me get into the mindset to figure this stuff out.

 

Question.  Seeing as I have a web site, is there some way to set up a server in a box or computer at home to send the web cam and other info out to a secure portion of my web site?  Or if I wanted, have the web cam visible on the web site.  Would having something at my house sending the info out bypass the problem of residential service blocking incoming connections?

 

I don't even know if that would be a problem here as I've not checked yet.  I'm on Brighthouse.

Sounds like very good advice, I'll have to start researching that.

John R said:

Not sure where you'd want to start but it would probably be cheapest to figure out how to get a picture from your camera to your website in the simplest (and most automated way) possible with your current equipment before spending the money on something that may not be able to do some critical step.

If your going the PC route, you can use multiple inexpensive CCTV cameras.

Here is a cheap 4 camera USB  adapter for $10, cameras are cheap, versatile, and loads are available on EBay.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=110&cp_id=11...

(I just ordered 2 for the first time, I'll post how well they work if anyone's interested)

GOTOMYPC.COM would be an easy way to view. I don't know how to stream to another webserver, If you google it I'm sure we could help you figure it out....

 

Yes please let us know how it works for you.

Darrin Charbonneau said:

If your going the PC route, you can use multiple inexpensive CCTV cameras.

Here is a cheap 4 camera USB  adapter for $10, cameras are cheap, versatile, and loads are available on EBay.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=110&cp_id=11...

(I just ordered 2 for the first time, I'll post how well they work if anyone's interested)

GOTOMYPC.COM would be an easy way to view. I don't know how to stream to another webserver, If you google it I'm sure we could help you figure it out....

 

I'd like to have sensors in the greenhouse that would monitor things like the ambient temperature, tank temperature, humidity.  Other useful things would be flow rates (no flow telling me there is a pumping issue), ox sensor, low water (could indicate a leak). I'd like to have a readout panel in my house to tell me what these levels are at a glance over my morning coffee, to my pc to take samples  to chart trends, and to give me call in capabilities when I'm away from the house. Since my greenhouse is also going to be my base for the rest of the farm, I could monitor water usage in the garden drip systems and detect leaks if water meters and pressure gauges changed drasticly. Fun stuff. If you have ideas to share I'd find it real useful.



John R said:

Hello,

 

Thanks for the interest.  Right now I think the price would be right, free!  As in I can help you build something but I don't have anything to sell.  If building something is of interest to you then please let me know.  What I have going requires a significant amount of technical know-how.  I've done this for a living and to me its just the hammer I already have for the aquaponics nail I want to put to work.

 

What I'd like to do commercially is to design some modules that could be scattered around a greenhouse to measure or control various items.  I'd want these to be as inexpensive as possible while still being able to survive the environment.  These would all be connected together to a PC (or two - redundancy rocks) that would provide a web site for monitoring and control of all the modules.  If anyone out there has ideas about what those modules should measure or control I'd really like to hear them.

 

John


Sahib Punjabi said:

Hello John R,

 

Count me in...at the right price, I would love to try such a system. Please let me know :-)

 

God bless,

 

FarmerWilly - everything you're looking for is certainly possible.  All it requires is time, money and frustration -- and you get to minimize just one.  Personally I minimize money but when I'm doing it professionally I minimize frustration.  Time minimizes itself with experience.

 

The way I would try to accomplish what you are looking for would be to put a web server somewhere central and relatively safe within the area that you are trying to monitor.  Then run networking cable to the rest of your network (probably in the house) - you could use wireless but I like wires since they remove a layer of complexity, cost, and can't easily be hacked.

That way, anywhere you have a web browser you can check out its status.  And because that server could do other things like send email or text messages it could warn you if there was a problem.

 

There are lots of ways of connecting sensors to a web server computer.  I use a microprocessor board to talk to the computer through its serial port.  I do this because I have all the parts and I've been doing it for years.  But basically, you need to be able to read voltages for sensors and on/off for switches and get that to the computer.  Then you'd need to be able to interpret and convert those readings into useful information.

 

I wish I knew of an easy (for other people) way to do this but I don't.  I've been digging into that problem a little as time allows and haven't really been all that successful.  If you know what kind of system you think you could deal with in terms of complexity and cost, please let me know so I can further refine my efforts.

 

I'm starting to wade into such things.  A good place to start with the electronics and micro processors is with the picaxe chips.  I managed to fairly quickly learn how to hook one up with some other basic electronics components and program it to operate as a repeat cycle timer to control the pump on my 300 gallon system when using the indexing valve.  I intend to add a temperature sensor to it as well to control the feeder.

 

Next step will be figuring out how to get these to talk to a computer or web server to track other things and report to my web site.

 

Kinda slow going learning as I go but it is a great feeling when I get something working successfully the way I want.

 

TCLynx - I checked out the PICAXE parts and they're pretty good price wise.  I've been totally up parts and such and my own boards can't beat $50 in just the parts cost which makes the BASICSTAMP look pretty good.  I'm wondering what the threshold is for tinkerers out there in terms of capabilities and cost.  Is the ability to program in BASIC something people would appreciate?  Or would people rather not program at all and have menus/wizards to assign sensor information.

 

Also, you might want to check out the systems at www.mini-box.com for computers that could be used as webservers.

I bought a couple of systems using the D945GSEJT motherboard that can run on 12VDC along with an enclosure, drive, power supply and backpanel with riser card - total cost each around $250.  These are pretty nice systems and have been pretty reliable - one gave me a few issues (quite likely my fault) but the other has operated flawlessly.  They don't have fans but I'm not sure that they would survive well in the humidity and tempertures of a greenhouse.  There are systems that are better suited for that environment but they are significantly (100%) more expensive.

 

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