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The Internet of Things Comes to Your Grow Room

At some point, haven’t we all dreamed about all things we wish we would had invented

  • Post-It Notes
  • Fidget Spinners
  • The Internet (thanks Al Gore)

But seriously, in a world today that looks eerily like the Jetson’s or Star Trek, we are closer to self-driving cars, food replicators, and humanoid robots than ever before. Think about never having to walk your dog again, instantly getting your favorite French pastry, and all the free time you will have because you don’t have to dust or vacuum?

Even in today’s world we dream about “pieces to complete the puzzle” that are just out of reach. The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting us closer and closer every day to kicking back and letting life happen around us. And one of those missing “puzzle pieces” is the ability to automatically control something – like your coffee starting itself in the morning or your refrigerator knowing when you need milk (damn – those have already come true).

But how about controlling the CO2 level in your grow room?

No matter what you are growing (tomatoes, leafy greens, or “American Oregano”) the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide gas you are trying to maintain in your grow space, and no matter the size of the space, every grower wants to know the CO2 level and have the ability to control it.

Knowing the ppm in your space has become increasingly simpler and more cost effective in the last 3-4 years with the creation of smaller and more cost-effective gas sensors – specifically CO2. And not only are CO2 sensors more cost effective, they are far more accurate and user friendly allowing some technologists to even create their own devices. With sensors like the K30 CO2 Sensor allowing users to power, connect, and communicate with them in minutes and costing less than a hundred dollars, the ability to know the gas concentrations is not only possible but professional as well.

Now tie a sensor like the K30 to a board and relay and suddenly you have a device that measures CO2 levels accurately and allows you to control them.

For example, the RAD-0501 Day/Night CO2 Controller combines reading the CO2 level in real time and controlling it into one, low cost device. By measuring the CO2 accurately and repetitively the RAD-0501 “senses” the CO2 level dozens of times per minute. When the sensor inside detects that CO2 levels have dropped below optimum levels (usually < 800 ppm) the relay in the RAD-0501 triggers a contact closure on a solenoid valve. This valve is one of the two keys to this operation. The other being the sensor itself.

Think of solenoid valves as simple open/closed switches. When open, the solenoid allows gas to flow from one side of the valve to the other. When closed, the solenoid closes off the supply of gas. This simple mechanism is the key to controlling the gas supply to your grow space. While simple, it can be one of the backbones of your operation.

Solenoid valves are an $8-$20 part on Amazon or anywhere online. In personal grow operations these valves are usually incorporated into the regulator for your CO2 cylinder. The PRT-346 Regulator and Solenoid Valve is a cost effective way to use your controller to actually control your grow space. We recommend dialing your regulator to the lowest possible setting until you develop a specific understanding of your grow spaces needs.

Note: In commercial grow operations that use bulk CO2 tanks we recommend that facilities managers contact their gas suppliers to have them correctly size and install the solenoid valves for their supply lines. Please do not attempt to change gas supply valves yourself!

View CO2 Levels Remotely

Even if your CO2 level is being handled automatically, you might still want to be able to view it remotely. This is where the IoT comes in. 

For example, the RAD-0501 has a industry-standard 4-20mA output. This means you could connect it to an Arduino and add an Arduino WiFi Shield, and now your CO2 level is available on your network in real time. Add an AdaFruit Feather Cellular board to send you SMS text messages from your Arduino and you've got a full IoT application.

If you're interested in Raspberry Pi, there are solutions like this for reading the 4-20aA signal too. With a bit of searching online, there are even plug and play solutions.

By combining intelligent devices like our CO2 controller with the IoT, you can turn “Danger Will Robinson” into “Yes Mr. Jetson” overnight.

Photo by Crown Agency on Unsplash

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