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I am approaching my first growing season and as I plan my system growth, I can't help but think that we as a community must have some simple and inexpensive automation solution out there.  
I have been watching Arduino and Raspberry Pi processor creations pop up here and there and much interest in the possibilities.  Other than Rik Kretzinger, I don't find many who have completed a fully funcional system.  I haven't programmed since my Commodore 64, so the learning curve will be very steep for me to do this all by myself.

Before I get too far into the weeds, let me say, I am a father of 4 kids and started this process to grow quality fresh food and learn how to grow as close to year round as possible.  I am a contractor with extensive experience in many things from aviation to residential and industrial construction.  My weakness is in the controls automation aspect of things.  I am not looking for an endless hobby of programming or tinkering, so I continue to seek simple solutions of off the shelf timers and such.  This limits heavily what I feel could be done.  Also, I find some intriguing products made for such purposes,  but the cost is prohibitive.    I have a 20' x 32' greenhouse that has a gravel bed and DWC as well as about 12 Dutch buckets.  I am thinking that I will max out the remaining space with about 70-75 more dutch buckets and possibly a NFT wall.  I have installed a home built solar collector that is working well to heat.  Later will likely add a LP water heater for deep winter heating.  Like I said, this isn't a hobby with endless funds, so I am looking for advise here.  Is it practical to even go down this road? 

Here's the dream list:

Scope of Design:

Windows PC controlled:(Directly, Networked or Web Based)
Hardware Requirements
5-8 temperature sensors:
  • Fish tank water temp
  • Air Temp
  • Gravel Temp
  • DWC Water Temp
  • Return from Solar Collector Temp
  • (3-future)
2 Humidity Sensor: 
  • Ambient inside Humidity
  • Outside Greenhouse Humidity
Water Level Sensor:
  • Measure water level in Reservoir and alert to email if low
Multiple Scale able Relays: 20 Amp max
  • Water Pump On/Off 115V
  • Fan On/Off 115V
  • Multiple solenoids to direct water to grow beds and planter (Dutch Buckets) 
  • Heater On/Off 115V (Likely LP fired boiler to heat water primary, air secondary)
Software Programming 
Database Function:
  • Log every x-min Temp and Humidity as well as when pumps and fans are on
  • Generate charts with customizable views
Logic Functions:
  • Irrigation cycle
    • Flow from Fish tank - Solid filter - Grow Bed - DWC - sump back
    • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 1 (DBS1) on 5 min off 25
    • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 2 (DBS2) on 5 min off 25  after DBS1 turns off
    • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 3 (DBS3) on 5 min off 25  after DBS2 turns off
  • Air Temp below 32 = Heat Above 80 = Fan
  • If humidity below 35% = run Irrigation cycle
  • Water Temp Below = 60
    • Check Solar loop temp if over water temp, turn on loop Solenoid
    • If loop below 32 and water below 40 Turn on boiler
  • Water Temp over = 80
    • If Air temp below water temp
      • Turn on Grow bed Solenoid
      • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 1  on 5 min off 25
      • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 2  on 5 min off 25  after DBS1 turns off
      • Turn on Dutch Bucket Solenoid 3  on 5 min off 25  after DBS2 turns off
    • If Air Temp Below Water Temp 
  • Solar Loop Control
    •  Winter
      • Heat system water within parameters
      • Once System temp is within parameters, Heat Storage water as hot as possible 
      • If Water temp Drops below 40 at night mix water from storage to maintain consistent temp
      • Once system and storage tanks are same temp turn off mix and use LP boiler
    • Summer
      • Energize loop at night to shed heat as needed
      • Over Cool storage for day time cooling 
      • If Water temp rises above 80 during day use mix from storage tanks

It seems once the hardware is in place and you have the ability to set the parameters, the sky is the limit.  I would love to contribute to a system that would be low cost and user friendly.

Thought, Interest, Great big belly laughs are welcome.


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I have found likely the closest complete system build to what I am looking to build.  I am researching control valves before I proceed to make sure .   Here is the link to the system build I am going to emulate.

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