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N.G.S. Part 2: Networked Growing Systems Featured

The Networked Growing System represents the future for high-level growers. The Networked Growing System represents the future for high-level growers.


Welcome to our second installment on NGS: networked growing systems. In our previous article, we started on our goal to completely automate our hydroponic setup, giving us complete control over all aspects of the garden from anywhere in the world via smartphone or PC.

Part 1 had us installing our remote viewing system, as well as the epicenter of our operation, the router that will allow our devices to communicate with one another and back to us. We are now ready to set up our growing equipment. By the time we’re finished, our gear will communicate with us in real time.

Get Ready! Take Aim!

First you need to decide what you want controlled in your grow op. Put on your meditation hat and try to picture how it all should run; take a virtual tour through the grow with your mind. Once you come back, map it out on paper. You are only limited by your imagination and your budget.

Here are some common factors you’ll want to control in your garden:

• Photoperiod:18 hours lights on, 6 hours lights off
• Temperature Set Points: 82°F cooling, 72°F heating with
  high-temperature lighting shut-off
• Humidity: 55% RH (+/- 10%)
• Carbon Dioxide:1200 ppm
• Reservoir pH: 5.7
• Reservoir TDS: 600-1200 ppm
• System Flood/Drain: Twice daily for 2-to-5-minute
• Water Level indicator and auto top-off
• Remote viewing/audio

• Photoperiod: 12 hours lights on, 12 hours lights off
• Temperature Set Points: 82°F cooling, 67°F heating with
  high-temperature lighting shut-off
• Humidity: 50% RH (+/- 10%)
• Carbon Dioxide:1200 ppm
• Reservoir pH: 5.7
• Reservoir TDS: 1200-1800 ppm
• Water Level indicator and auto top-off
• System Flood/Drain: Three times daily for 3-to-6-minute
• Remote viewing/audio


Now that you have a comprehensive list of what you need to control, here’s the gear that can help you achieve total automation.
GroBot Evo (or original model)
Dose rack(s)
pH probe*
TDS probe*
Water-level sensor
Wireless/remote power outlets: lighting, CO2, cooling, heating/dehum., pumps
High-amperage relays (AC, lighting, heating)
IP/network camera with pan-and-tilt, two-way mic.

*If you use the Advanced Nutrients pH Perfect® System, the pH will take care of itself and the TDS will be buffered. Besides the obvious advantages, this also frees up slots on your automated nutrient dose racks for other beneficial additives or nutrient components — no need to have pH UP and DOWN concentrates.

The original GroBot is being used in this example, and as we stated earlier, most automated grow room controls come with lots of features, as indicated by their price. This means most probes and sensors are included. You will likely need to buy additional wireless/remote outlets. You can get these when you order your unit or buy them as aftermarket devices; they are common in home automation.

Now, let’s get you into the growing age of automation. In a nutshell, here’s how it should all eventually work:

Get Your Bot Talking

You may need to designate a little time for this and be prepared to phone the manufacturer for some support. If you have set up an online gaming console, it shouldn’t prove to be much different. Once you can access your bot from your local and remote network, you are most of the way there. While you’re at it, do the same for your IP/network camera.
Install bot and dose rack(s)

The bot is going to need to be able to sniff the environment that immediately surrounds the plants, so it shouldn’t be far away from the crop. Some growers will attach it to an adjustable suspension system so they can raise it as the crop grows, while keeping it out of direct light. Dose racks in the original are separate and should be located near the reservoir. In the Evo model, it’s all combined and the unit is typically affixed to a shelf near crop height.

Plug In Sensors, Attach Lines, Hook Up Gear

Almost there, and it’s getting easier and easier. After all the sensors are plugged in and located in the proper places (and talking to the bot on the channels you assign), you can start to install the rest of your automated/networked gear like CO2, lighting and other environmental controls.


Unless you’re doing your indoor gardening on a micro-scale, you are going to need to be able to control a 220/240V load that supplies power to your lighting systems. You also want to be able to interrupt this power supply if the grow room overheats due to problems like cooling equipment failure. This means installing a high-temp shut-down inline with the power supply. It also means that you want to be able to control this power supply to change lighting cycles remotely. This is where you need the high-power relay to couple up to the 110/120V wireless/remote plug that helps you talk to your lighting gear through the bot.


As with lighting, you will probably need a high-power relay because bigger cooling appliances typically operate on 220/240V rather than 110/120V. The wireless/remote-controlled plug can safely control this with the high-amperage relay installed.


Just plug in your CO2 release/generation device to the wireless/remote-controlled power outlet.

Additional Tips:

Don’t secure all your cables to the walls and ceiling until you have everything up and running. Once you know it all works together and everything is in the right space, go ahead and safely secure all cables, wires, etc. out of harm’s way. You might decide to reconfigure a few times to find your own personal perfect setup.

Consider an additional wireless/remote plug relay for a green-only LED nightlight — just in case you need to see what’s going on from far away when the lights are out in the room.

Rename your network, and don’t make it enticing to thieves prowling wireless signals. For example, “Erik Biksa’s Million Dollar Grow Room” would not be a good choice.

You can program your bot to send email alerts if there’s a problem. You don’t need to know if your temps rise 1.5 degrees. If you get alerts too often, you might miss an important one. Be careful with subject lines as well.

Make sure your sensors and probes are calibrated and cleaned on a regularly scheduled maintenance program. If you aren’t there and growing from afar, there’s a lot riding on their accuracy.

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Networked Growing Systems represent the future for high level growers.
Last modified on Monday, 01 October 2012 15:32

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