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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Development Updates

Major major rewrite!   I've spent the past month completely rewriting the code for Grow By Wire.


I've been using Arduino Pro/Mini boards as my modules, giving me 8 analog inputs on each. I was also arranging them so a MASTER would trip a relay providing power to all the sensors on not only itself, but 2 more SLAVE modules connected via SoftwareSerial connections.  This meant that the power was ON to the soil moisture sensors for the entire time, facilitating faster corrosion on the probes due to electrolysis.

There were 3 MASTER modules, and 2 SLAVE modules, so 5 Pro/Mini boards, one of which used Bluetooth to communicate so it could be placed remotely.

Data from all these modules ended up on an Arduino Mega (WeMos Mega with ESP8266), which uses hardware serial to communicate between the Mega and ESP8266. The ESP8266 then connects to a MySql Database running on my home network via WiFi.

You can imagine the software required to not only scan all the sensors, but to coordinate all that data all the way back to the database, through all those modules...

The new design...

I'm now using just the WeMos Mega with on board ESP8266 (I actually have 2. but only one in the grow room at the moment, using the other for development. I'll order a couple more, they are under $20 each.

Each sensor has an appropriate voltage divider and so the wire terminates in a 3 pin Dupont connector with GND, VCC, and Signal.  The Signal is hooked up to an Analog Pin, GND to Ground, and VCC to a digital pin, which then allows me to toggle the power TO A SPECIFIC sensor in order to measure it's value.  Since the pins can only handle ~40ma, I have also made a"transistor switching module" modules, small PCB with transistor to switch power provided externally. If I need more power than the transistor can supply (~600ma) I can simply plug in a true RELAY, and switch either DC or A/C power (lights, pumps, etc)

Here is what my "voltage divider modules" look like:

Here is what my "transistor switching module" look like:

The Arduino provides GND and Power (from a digital pin, so it can be switched on and off) and reads the Signal on an Analog Pin.  The Power provided is ONLY for switching the transistor, NOT for the sensor itself. The sensor power comes from an external source (actually, just the 5v pin on the Arduino Mega for now) that is capable of providing enough current for the sensor, without blowing up the transistor.

Ground is passed straight through to the output pins, as is the Signal.  The Arduino Power (from a digital pin) is connected to the BASE of the transistor, so when it is HIGH, the transistor will allow current to flow from the collector to the emitter. The collector gets its power from the input on the right hand side of the board, and the emitter outputs it on the Output VCC Pin (2);

In order to hook everything up to the Mega, and keep the wiring from becoming a nightmare, I created some simple "breakout boards" for the Analog and Digital pins. This creates a manageable wiring harness.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Aqua Cloner woes


When I first started using the Aqua Clone machine, I was astounded at the ease and success rate, and even the rooting time. I used to use peat pellets, and one day at the grow shop I saw this sitting on the shelf and decided to give it a try.

I'm glad I did, the results were fantastic, within a week I was seeing nice long white roots, something that would take up to 2 weeks using the peat pellets, but without any of the headaches of trying to control the humidity and keeping the pellets at just the right moisture level.  The Aqua Cloner was plug and play, basically fill it with tap water, put your cuttings into the neoprene collars and plug in the machine. That's it, just peek in every couple days till they were ready for transplanting into soil, no humidity dome required...

Fast forward 6 months, and things are very different. I was about to pack it up and go back to peat pellets and all the work involved because my cuttings were now taking a month to root, and the roots are brownish, not bright white like they used to be. To be honest, I figured it had something to do with the really hot temperatures during the summer, and so I set off on Google to try to find the optimum water temp etc.  I found this article during a search, and found many other good articles on the site as well, but this one specifically talked about the importance of sterilizing everything...

That's got to be my problem...   I'm quite lax when it comes to keeping things sterile.  I would find slime on the cutting stems, and coating the pump, especially during the hot weather when the water temp would occasionally go over 86F, way higher than the recommended 70F or so...  When this happened, I would dump out the water, rinse things off, and refill it. Little did I realize how unsterile that left things.

The above article even has you disassemble the water pump to ensure every bit is free of slime and bacteria. 

You see, when you first buy the Aqua Cloner, it's free of the bacteria that eventually builds up causing diminishing results. I have mine going continuously, always cuttings on the go, only changing the water when it needed it.

So I spent the past couple days following the instructions on that page and now my Aqua Cloner is back to being "like new" and I expect much better results! Because of the poor results lately, I have only 2 fairly small mothers, so my selection of cuttings was pretty slim.  I grow two strains, Green Crack for the THC, and CBDream for the CBD. I'm down to my LAST Green Crack mother although I do have one seed left in an emergency...

I took 6 CBDream cuttings, and two Green Crack, and in a week or so I'll take some more. In the mean time, I'll be watching the existing cuttings and see how successful this exercise has been. I'll post results as I move forward...

The first day I put the cutting in, all but two wilted really badly, and I thought this was going to be a fail.  That was three days ago, and now almost all of them have come back to life!

Update: 2018-11-15

Only one is beginning to show roots, it's been 11 days, something still isn't right. I'm also still having problems with cuttings wilting away, and drying up.  I know everyone says you don't put a humidity dome on these DWC Clone machines, but being winter, the air is VERY dry, usually less that 25% RH.

I set this up yesterday, and already the clones are looking MUCH better. I took 2 collars out so the humidity will rise up from the water. Time will tell, but it looks like I might be on the right track.