Hydro tree V3

Hydrotree V3.0

Initial thoughts 

Idea is to move the Apple tree that is currently growing in the V2.0 to a new home. Build a hydroponic system that has sensors for temperature, humidity, light, water temperature. Wanted the system to also have a grow light so that it would not mater if it is the dark of winter or if the system is placed somewhere that has little to no sunlight. I read that plants enjoy air circulation. So also a fan will be added.

I used the same parts as in the Hydro Spinach for the brain. That project did not grow anything anyway. Spark core with all the same sensors. Also including a camera that I do not know how to use yet.

System needs three types of power. Mains for the grow light and hydroponic systems water and air pumps. 12V for the fan and 5V for the Spark core.
See the picture as a rough outline on what it is meant to look like.


Whip out the tools 

Started off with the base where I would put the Spark core and power supplies. Had some kitchen counter top board left overs from a friend. It is sturdy and will make a nice frame for the base. I cut out a teardrop shape cos I thought that would look nice and be functional at the same time. At the narrow end of the drop I plan to put the backbone that runs all the way up to the growlight assemply. on the "fat" end I wanted to house the electronics. it is sized to fit nicely under the pot.

I cut out two pieces of the kitchen top in the teardrop shape. I plan to make them the top of it and the bottom of it. Between I will use 20mm insulation foam to make the layers walls. Used it in V2.o and it was easy to work on. Bit dusty but so what.

After cutting everything out I used two by two as pilars so that the foam construct does not need to take the weight of the pot full of water. cut the foam shapes to fit between the wooden frame. One side made a nice little door to give me access to the electronics.


Electronic brain

Started to fit the electronics I noticed that I can't fit everything into the base. I could fit the air pump and both power supplies but not the spark core and relay board. Only solution is to use some plastic installation boxes outside the base.
I fitted these just behind the base and the spark core is now outside just hanging about.

For the top I used a wooden frame and a grow light. 180mm computer fan. All mounted and run the power for the grow light through the relay so I can cut it for the night.


Final touches

One problem I been having is the actual apple tree requires support to grow up. I think it is due to the fact that there is no soil for it to support itself from. I could just run a line from the top to the base and have the tree lean on it. But that would not be central and would make it painful to change the water. I had a brilliant idea of suspending a wire from the top through the same hole the tree is growing in into the pot. Now fixing it to the bottom of the pot would be hard as I want to have the pot removable for cleaning and maintenance. I tied a rock in the other end of the wire. Now the thing is suspended in the water and hanging with just the right tension. Clever.

Now all is ready and running. Wonder what will be needed to be done later when the tree gets bigger. We will see...

Here it is the ready made one... Ok Ok I need to do something to hide the cable hell but other then that... Nice hu?


HydroTree V2.0

Second iteration of the HydroTree.

There were some points in the V1.0 that I wanted to address in the second iteration.

  1. The noise of the air pump. It needs to go down.
  2. Grow top is too thick for the apple tree to grow roots nicely.

Addressing the problems in the design.

To address the noise now got a new different type of air pump. Tetra APS 50 air pump. It too promises to be extra silent. Before starting I did try it out and it seems to be quite the bit more silent then the JBL air pump.
To make the grow top thiner so that the roots have easy access to the the nutrient solution I used only one layer of the 20mm thick foam. It will float like a raft on the nutrient solution and giving instant access to the rock-wool cube for the nutrient solution. Now that the grow top is thin I still need to work the air pump and electronic junction box somewhere. After some thinking I decided that they need to go under. See picture 🙂
I can then also add some insulation to further dampen the noise of the air pump.

Some shopping done 🙂

Parts list :

  • Black pot decorated with some straw
  • Insulation foam. 20mm thick.
  • Plastic electric junktion box
  • Some Wago connectors
  • Tetra APS 50 Air pump
  • Silicon tube for air hose
  • Air stone of any kind
  • Safety valve that allows only air flow one way and nothing in.
  • Submerged water pump
  • Decorative stones
  • 20mm wide and 1mm thick white plastic sheet
  • 5mm plexi glass
  • Elastic glue
  • Hot glue gun plus hot glue.

That is quite some items but it is all you need.

Let the work begin 🙂

I started by using the pot as a model and drawing the circles on the insulation foam. Five in total. Four sides and a bottom. In the plan there was only four in total but I think a bit more space will not hurt.

Then it is the trusty Jigsaw and cut out all circles.

Four of the circles need to be hollow to for the sides. Just free-handing with the felt pen to mark down where to cut from. Cutting is quite easy as if you just gently press the jigsaw in full RPM into the foam it will go through it and you can start from inside of the circle. Four circles later and one of the them needs a 1cm bit carved out so I can run electric cable through it.

Glue, glue, glue, glue and some clamps create a nice cake 🙂

Holes to the pot

Next while the base cake is drying I start working with the pot.
Two holes needed at the bottom to accommodate the water pumps electricity cable and the air hose.

Sealing the holes

I used a lot of elastic glue. The one I have is quite strong and I put a good chink on both sides.
Using an emergency valve for the air hose so in case the air pump shuts down for some reason, no water comes through the air hose.
Now here is my first mistake. Without thinking it through I drilled the holes. Too close to the sides and it would place the air hose and electricity cable right under the side of the base cake. Shit.
Well need to carve some bits out to accommodate the clumsy positioning of the holes.
Next time I will place the holes further from the sides but not too much. Don't want them in the middle of the pot either. Then they would need to make a odd curve due to the air pump and stuff that is places in the base cake.
Put a 20cm piece of hose on the water pump to make it really circulate the water.

Sanding to shape

Now that the base cake is dry enough, I wanted to sand it to be uniform shape. Set the belt sander to 90degree angle  to make sure all looks nice and even.

Safety first

Remember to use safety glasses and mask. Never forget that the dust from that thing is quite toxic. Well I got no idea how toxic but I'm sure it is not healthy 🙂

Touch of paint

Finished the sanded base cake with a coat of black paint I had on shelve. I put a thick layer so it would also even the cake out a bit. Just a FYI it doesn't it dries to a thin coat and still shows all imperfections. Another mistake 🙂 Well next time I'll add a filler all around to make it look nicer.

Ok time to let everything adhere and dry 🙂

Day 2

I came to my workshop and next up was checking out how the glue has hardened around the electric cable and air hose at the bottom of the pot. Filled the pot up with water checking after each 5 litres that it is not leaking. It seems to hold exactly 20 litres and thats full. No leaks and left the thing bubble at the other end of the work-desk.

Grow top is up next. In Version 1 I had the whole of the air-pump and electric junction box in it and the top was whopping 10cm thick creating the problem that how would I get the water to the roots before they actually reach the solution themselves. Now in this new one I use only one foam disk that is 20mm thick. Hole in the middle to have the rock-wool where the tree will grow from.
It is the first part of the video. You see me sanding and fitting 🙂 Good idea to fit it more often then not as if you over-sand it you need to start over. Fits nicely and floats on top of the nutrition solution.
I had the idea for the decorative stones. Plan is to build a top disk from 5mm plexiglass and make some sort of low sides to it so the stones could be nicely housed on it and it would be easy to take off and put back on again in case needed.
Sand and fit the disk. Drill a hole in the middle where the tree will come through. Then use hot-glue to glue 20mm white plastic strip to the side and center.
Nicely the rookieness of my video making skills show up here too as I am glueing the sides in and my iPhone runs out of battery 🙂
Sucks but here is a picture of the end result.

HydroTree V1.0


Time to go from words to actions 😃 I have one apple tree sprout out of its seed and it requires a new home.
I have a sketch here about what I would like the first version to be. Simple as possible with out losing on some fun bits to build.
It is a hydroponic system in a big pot for the tree sprout to grow in and thats it. Other requirements are that it needs to look nice and needs to be silent or close to silent. No one wants a pot that constantly makes a annoying buzzing noise.


Things needed

Local hardware store had a nice sized pot with some decorative… I think that is straw rapper around its black plastic frame. Size is right and looks ok.
In the bag from the hardware store I also got a small electric junction box, cubic meter of rock-wool  and 3 cans of white decorative stones. Decorative stones are to go on-top of the pot to look nice. We must not forget that the pot if anything is a decorative element and needs to look the part.

 Inside the pot there will be the nutrition solution (water with fertiliser) and on top of that still slightly in the pot is the top. The Top will house the air pump and electronic junction box. 
I started to cut circles of the insulation foam I got leftover from the Food computer project. I did a circle using the pot upside down. 
Then cutting the circle off with my jigsaw. Times four as I calculated I need four layers to house the hardware.

Layers layers layers and one more layer

Base will be solid except for the hole in the middle where the grow medium will go. I plan to use the rock wool I bought from the hardware store as the grow medium, some doubts on that will it work… Well we will see 😃
Next layer will have two additional holes to create the space for the junction box and air pump. Also on this layer there is a hole from the air pump housing to the electric junction box and out of the side. This is to accommodate the wires. Electricity from the air pump, water pump to the junction box and from junction box out to the socket for power 😃 
Next layers will only have the holes for grow medium in the middle, Air pump and junction box.
All ready cut and then what is left is to clue all together. Some clamps to press it all together.
After the glue hardens I test fitted the Top that looks like a big yellow cake 😃 into the Pot. Not fitting so I used my belt sander with 60 grit paper to sand some of the sides a bit. Set the surface to be in a small angle as to imitate the sides of the pot. Remember to use protective gear as the foam is quite harmful to breath and also I bet its not good for your eyes.
Sanding - try and fit - sanding - try and fit - sanding - try and fit
Lots of work to fit that bloody thing. Left it quite tight fit as I do want it to be somewhat sealed and don’t want the decorative stones to drop into the cracks.

Drilled holes for air pumps air hose and water pumps electricity. Attached a air stone to the air hose. Snips snaps and some Wago connectors later we have ready connections. Plugged it in to see if it works and it does 😃
Not exactly CE approved 😃

Huge cabs between the sides bother me a bit as I wanted to put the decorative stones on the top so I found some 5mm plexiglass that I had laying around not used. Again the same thing as with the cake. Circle with the pot and jigsaw it. Drilled the grow space hole in the middle and lets see how it fits.
Sanding - try and fit - sanding - try and fit - sanding - try and fit
Lots of work to fit that bloody thing. Left it quite tight fit as I do want it to be somewhat sealed and don’t want the decorative stones to drop into the cracks.

I sliced up some of the rock wool I bought and checked out how it would work as a grow medium.
Cutting it was super simple and easy just use a shape that resembles the desired outcome and cut around it using a sharp knife.
My idea is to use the rock wool to dip into the nutrition solution (water) and like a sponge suck in the water and bring it up to the sprouting tree 😃
Sucks as it does not work this way. The one I bought is made to build houses. Looks and feels the same as the rock wool growth medium I bought but firstly it reflects water. Like pearls the water just skids off it. 
I wondered what other options would I have and thought to use just cotton wool that can be found in all bathrooms that have a woman residing in the adjacent flat 😃 
If I had patience I would order some proper rock wool grow medium from ebay but as I wanted to have this done in one weekend I went with the cotton wool.
It needed some support to not drop into the hole and splash into the nutrition solution so I cut some old shirt hangers made of a metal wire. Created a X through the cotton.

Time to take this show home 😃 Packed it all into my car and drove home.
The pot holds 16 litres of water. Used the advanced hydroponics Grow, bloom and micro solutions accordingly. Now that the nutrition solution is done I put the top on and the water pump and air stone into the solution. Plugged in the power and checked that everything worked. And they did 😃 great success so far. Damned air pump is noisy… Ultra silent my ass… 
To mitigate the noise I stuck rock wool into to fill the space left in the holes. hope it helps a little.
Wrapped the cotton wool into a roll and stuck the wires from the shirt hangers through it creating a X. 
waited a bit to see if the top of the wool gets wet from the nutrition fluid. It didn’t. Cotton wool as grow medium sucks balls too. Time to order that grow medium rock wool of ebay.
Until it is delivered I will make do with the cotton. I stuck the apple tree sprout in the middle of the cotton and poured some water on it. I will keep an eye on it to keep it wet until I get the proper grow medium.
Added the plexiglass cover for the top and covered it with decorative stones.



The user experience so far is that the setup is too noisy. That Ultra silent air pump is nothing but silent. It is going to drive me nuts so I need to see if I can find a silent one. Need to go browsing some pet stores for aquarium stuff 😃 

Yet to be discovered

  1. Will the apple tree sprout grow roots long enough to reach the nutrition solution?
  2. Will the apple tree sprout be able to grow roots through the cotton wool?
  3. If the root grows into the cotton will I be able to change it? Will I even need to. 
I will keep you apprised on the state of the apple tree 🙂

Hydroponic tree project

Hydroponic tree project

Hydroponic tree project is an idea to have a tree growing inside your flat using no soil, care free, season independent, fruits please 😃 
I done some sketching and ideation and what is needed is a simple hydroponics system and a timed light source. Additionally I want to add some sensors and a webcam so I can share the progress with you guys.
One of the main challenges with in house gardening is the grow lights. That purple hue that the light gives is just plain ugly and will annoy the shit out of me and my girlfriend. To reduce the problem is firstly have it in a room that I can close the door by night so it will not bother me. Use a timer that only substitutes for the lag of light. Light sensor to shut it during the day when there is enough light. Maybe even a iPhone app that lets you shut it down when you have quests over. Like tell it to take a timeout for 2h. If there is some other ways to limit the light pollution I can add that later but for now these are the ones I’m going with.
Lets see how this project comes to life 🙂