Internet of Things electronics for Aquaponics
Aquaponics is a sustainable agriculture technology that uses:
- a closed loop water circulation system
- fish and plants in symbiosis: the fish fertilise the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish
To help spread aquaponics our team is developing electronic monitoring and control systems to make balancing the 3-way ecosystem (plants, fish, bacteria) easier. These systems apply Internet of Things technology which is both cheap and very low power, and we manufacture two devices (in Sheffield, with our partners Pimoroni):
- the WaterElf, which controls waterflow and etc., and monitors key parameters like temperature, light and pH
- the unPhone, which is part development platform and part coordination and management gizmo
We build systems! We have aquaponics systems running on campus, at Tonsley Tingas, Heeley City Farm, at Sohar University, at Olgapuri Children’s Village in Nepal, and at Gripple’s Riverside Works: see below.
Hamish Cunningham is…
…a Professor of Computer Science, and used to hope that as time passed he would get older and wiser, but it seems that in fact he just gets odder and wider. He has been a software engineer, researcher, open source developer and Chief Irritating Person of the GATE team and currently holds a Research Chair in Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. He has been Principal Investigator on some 25 research grants, and in 2014 he ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to produce a mobile power board for the Raspberry Pi. He believes that open tech has a contribution to make to sustainability and resilience, and that political democracy is proving incapable of saving the planet due to our complete lack of economic democracy. He has been lead developer on projects including:
- GATE Embedded
- CoW (a Controllable Wiki)
- GATE Cloud
- MoPi, mobile power for the Raspberry Pi
- WaterElf firmware
- COM3505, the IoT
- AquaMosaic, Gripple‘s aquaponic green wall
- the unPhone
Electronics is a real passion for Gareth—he has had it as a hobby since a young boy, and has been fixing computers for fun for the past 10 years. Still he really got serious about it 5 years ago, when he was asked to review an aquaponic monitoring system for the Incredible Aquagarden, which gave him the idea of building one himself: the first WaterElf. Working together with Hamish, he has designed several versions of the device since then, refining and improving it with each generation. Gareth believes that aquaponics is a good thing in the world, which offers the double benefit of being an exciting technical challenge and a potential part of a low carbon future, and he wants to make it more common by making it an easier, more fun and social activity. He thinks that putting things on the internet helps people grow their own food by making it a community activity, where they can share successes and failures, tips and tricks. Before he got involved in aquaponics, Gareth studied experimental psychology at Oxford, after which he worked in psychiatric hospitals and also studied occupational therapy for a while. A real good-doer, Gareth is involved in several volunteering projects: he is helping out asylum seekers with Assist, cooks meals, and fixes computers and other electric appliances for charity, just to mention but a few.
Boglarka Gulyas (Zilla)
Zilla holds an MBiolSci degree in Plant Science and is currently doing a PhD in sustainable urban agriculture at the University of Sheffield. She is looking at various environmental, social and economic aspects of producing food in cities, using IoT devices for data collection and life cycle analyses (LCA) to quantify and compare the costs and benefits associated with different practices including allotment growing, aquaponics and hydroponics. She also employs geographic information systems (GIS) to map built and green infrastructure suitable for growing vegetables in urban areas in order to estimate how much food we could potentially produce within city boundaries. Zilla spends most of her free time in different convoluted yoga poses and learning about holistic health. She believes that people are generally good, but often very stupid, and is determined to help them find happiness and balance in life. She also thinks that not destroying the Earth in the next couple of decades would be a very good idea, and changing the way we source our food could play an important role in this.
Steph has been a PhD student in Cybersecurity at the Department of Computer Science, The University of Sheffield since October 2018, and also part of the Security of Advanced Systems Research Group. Previously she worked in GDPR as a freelance Practitioner, following completion of an MSc in Information Security Systems, with a first-class degree. Her research interests are in design and implementation of cryptography, the impact of legislation on data privacy, hardware security and authentication protocols.
Elisabeth is student in agronomy from France, working on aquaponics as an intern at the University of Sheffield. She attaches great importance to the preservation of the environment, which she believes is a major challenge of our time and which requires a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices, the reduction of kilometers travelled by our food and conscious changes in our choices in everyday life. Elisabeth is working with Zilla to identify the types of crops most suited for cultivation in different urban-specific agricultural methods in the cooler climates of the North, and to find the most efficient ways to grow certain vegetables in the city. Elisabeth is curious, enjoys discovering new things and places and likes to spend time outdoors—she just wishes the weather was a little nicer on this island…
Anil is doing a PhD in Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, working on multi-robot systems. He spends most of his time herding swarms of robots, but is also involved in teaching undergraduate students about IoT. As far as aquaponics goes, Anil thinks that the sustainability and eco-friendliness that sets it apart from hydroponics is cool, and he is quite enthusiastic about the idea of growing your own and meeting basic vegetable needs of urban dwellers from within the city. He considers himself a jack of all, master of none: instead of specialising in any specific field, he likes to look at things as a whole system. He does bits of work on different aspects of aquaponic monitoring, including over the air updates for the WaterElf, adapting software to newer versions, and making the web interface more user friendly via improved and added graphics. Before starting his PhD at the University of Sheffield in 2015, Anil studied Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering at Yeditepe University. When he is not doing work in academia, Anil likes to spend his time with, well, learning… Discovering more about everything is his real passion (although he admits also having normal hobbies like playing board games and watching films or football).
Pics and Vids
Kate Humble on aquaponics:
Hamish on our 10bn project:
Hamish on fish poo:
Various Uni Shef peops: