Unsurprisingly, the idea of growing indoors has emerged as the world emerges of a pandemic that will keep one in five people at home for a few weeks. After all, we had a lot of time to think about what we could do inside and even outside, which sparked this corruption.
You wouldn’t think agriculture would be on that list as one of mankind’s oldest and most pivotal endeavors. But as the number of mouths to be fed has increased, arable land is also needed. To meet that demand, industrial agriculture, which depends on large-scale intensive production of crops and fertilizers, has radically transformed much of the Earth’s surface. Along the way, it has wiped out vital wildlife habitats, polluted our atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and undermined the health of the communities living near those countries.
Indoor cultivation, on the other hand, does not require that much land. New technologies and advancements in hydroponics even make it possible to grow without pesticides, soil, or even natural light. And because indoor crops can be stacked vertically, no large areas of land are needed. Imagine farms as office towers in the city center, offering fresh products floor after floor.
While the amount, type, and sophistication of the equipment indoor farms use will vary greatly, there are many tools required for any hydroponic indoor farm, no matter how it works.
In this article, you will learn about some of the tools that make indoor farming easier.
PH meter and calibration solution
It is extremely important to know the pH balance of the water and the nutrient solution.
The 16 nutrients that plants need to grow are only available simultaneously for uptake in a certain pH range.
This range varies from plant to plant but is generally between 5.5 and 6.5.
As a result, if your nutrient solution’s pH is too acidic or alkaline, the plants will not be able to absorb all the nutrients they need.
If necessary, use a calibration solution to adjust the pH to the correct level.
How to calibrate a pH meter
1. Examine the pH electrode
First, check whether the pH electrode is dirty or damaged. If it is damaged, fix it or throw it away. If it is just dirty, use the cleaning solution according to the instructions. Whether we use acids, rinsing liquid, or caustic solutions, choose a suitable solution for your process and contamination.
2. Rinse the pH sensor
Then rinse your sensor with distilled water. Even if we don’t have to clean it, we can do this to flush out anything that might contaminate the buffer you will be using in Step 3. After rinsing, wipe off any excess water with the paper towels. Most of the time, we don’t have to rub it anymore – it can charge or damage the sensor.
3. Immerse the pH electrode
Fill a beaker with your first buffer solution and dip your electrode in it. It is easy to drop the sensor directly into the buffer bottle, but we can prevent pollution and extend the life of a buffer by using the cup.
4. Calibrate the pH meter
Now we can start your calibration/adjustment. Keep an eye on the stability of the value; an old pH meter can react slowly. When the value stabilizes, set the device to accept this calibration/setting value.
5. Rinse the pH sensor and repeat
Rinse the pH sensor again with distilled water and then immerse it in another clean beaker with the second buffer solution.
An EC meter measures the electrical conductivity (EC) of liquids.
This measurement, given in parts per million (ppm), indicates how many dissolved, salt-based nutrients are in the liquid.
Electrical conductivity is the ability of a material to transmit electrical current. So the question is which medium is being measured and how can the readout be interpreted and used? The most commonly used EC measure in precision agriculture is the soil mass EC or apparent soil EC (ECa). This soil EC is correlated with various soil properties, such as soil texture and water retention capacity. Sandy soils have a lower EC value than clay soils.
It cannot determine specific amounts of nutrients, but it does tell you whether your plants are overfed or underfed, which you can fix by adding more or less nutrient solution. It is also helpful to use an EC meter to test water quality before using it in your hydroponic system.
Other methods of evaluating soil electrical conductivity focus on measuring soil solution EC, hence salinity. The difference between these methods is mainly the moisture status of the soil. The electrical conductivity of the soil solution changes continuously depending on the moisture content of the soil. Therefore, for standardization, all EC measurements must be performed with the same moisture content.
The most acceptable moisture content is the moisture content of the “saturated paste”, also known as the “EC of the saturated paste extract”. Most references in the literature, such as the salinity tolerance of different crops, relate to the EC of the saturated extract, referred to as ECe. ECe indicates the salinity of the soil. It can be used to estimate whether there is an excess of salts in the soil. However, it does not specify exactly which salts and nutrients are present. Unlike the apparent electrical conductivity of the soil, ECe cannot be measured directly in the field with sensors and must be measured in the laboratory. However, some mathematical models attempt to correlate between ECa and ECe.
In summary, EC sensors in precision agriculture are a valuable tool to better understand variability and trends in the soil. This is especially true for soil EC mapping and, to a much lesser extent, for stationary individual soil sensors. However, the precise management of fertilization is a complex process that takes into account multiple variables and parameters, well beyond the CE.
Ideally, you want clean, zero-value water to have complete control over the nutrients you provide to your plants.
Reverse osmosis water filter and storage tank
The quality of your tap water largely depends on the area in which you live. If you are in an area with particularly hard water, a reverse osmosis water filter will help remove unwanted chemicals and nutrients.
As mentioned above, ideally your water should be as pure as possible so that you have full control over the nutrients you provide to the crops.
You also need a storage tank to hold the filtered water. This way, you have a few that are ready to go as soon as you need them.
Reverse osmosis tanks use air pressure to deliver water from the tank to the dedicated faucet above the sink. Reverse osmosis tanks are hydropneumatic, which means that the tank contains not only water but also compressed air. Hydropneumatic storage tanks are capable of delivering pressurized water quickly and on-demand, without the aid of a booster pump.
In reverse osmosis, the tank is both an air chamber and a water chamber, divided in the middle by a bladder. While water is not compressed, the air is. As the reverse osmosis system draws water into the storage tank, the weight of the water begins to compress the air chamber. As the air is compressed, the pressure will continue to increase. When you open your faucet, this air pressure pushes the water out of the tank and up through your faucet. If the tank didn’t have an air chamber, the tank would fill with water, but you wouldn’t be able to transport it anywhere without the help of something like a supply pump. With hydropneumatic storage tanks, you can have a supply system without an electric pump.
The tank size predetermines where the water will be in the tank. In smaller tanks, between one and ten gallons, the water settles over the compressed air chamber. As the tanks get bigger and bigger, the water will sink to the bottom of the tank. Water weighs about nine pounds per gallon, so as the volume of water stored increases, the tank needs gravity to compress the air and force the water out of the tank. In smaller tanks, where the air chamber rests on the bottom, the membrane can push the air chamber down and compress the air.
Why are reverse osmosis tanks important?
The reverse osmosis tank fulfills two very important functions in the context of the reverse osmosis installation as a whole. The tank mainly provides you with pressurized water when you need it. But the secondary function is no less important to the operation of the system. The reverse osmosis tank maintains pressure throughout the reverse osmosis system and activates the system on / off cycle by monitoring line pressure.
The reverse osmosis system is equipped with a sensory valve that stops water production when the pressure in the tank reaches 2/3 of the line pressure. If your feed pressure is 60 psi, the membrane will continue to filter water and fill the storage tank until the compressed air in that tank reaches 40 psi. When the tank senses that 2/3 of the line pressure has been reached, the valve is moved to the closed position and water production stops. Automatic shut-off valves (styled as ASO valves) work in tandem with the storage tank to save thousands of gallons of water per year. If the system does not turn off automatically when the tank is filled, the water will continue to flow through the membrane and drain.
PAR meters measure the intensity of light, both natural and artificial.
This is especially helpful for indoor growers because you need to make sure your plants are getting the right amount of light. Too little or too much intensity will kill your crops.
A PAR meter helps you determine if you are getting the right amount so you can adjust your settings as needed.
How to use a PAR meter
By using a PAR meter to record direct light (PPFD), you can optimize your lighting environment according to your specifications. In controlled environmental farming (CEA), this means the ability to deliver the amount of light your crop needs at any time and during the day. To accurately measure light with a PAR meter, it is important that:
- Sensor is level
- The sensor head is clean
- No reflective objects near the sensor
- You do not physically interfere with the light source
Keep in mind that a level sensor that is free of debris and other obstructions affecting the light will only give an accurate reading with proper calibration. Sensors generally need to be recalibrated every two years. You can calibrate a PAR meter using an artificial light source (calibration lamp) that emits a known amount of light or sunlight.
A microscope can make the difference between life and death for your crops.
Unfortunately, some pests, such as the reddish mite, are so small that the human eye cannot see them. But this does not mean that they are any less harmful. If left untreated, these pests can kill your crops.
Since the symptoms are similar to pH imbalance and nutrient deficiencies, you need a microscope to diagnose the culture and ultimately find the right treatment.
Microscopes give farmers a glimpse into the magical world of soil microbiology, which was previously very abstract and difficult to deal with directly. You don’t have a Ph.D. needed to master the microscope, far from it! With a microscope and a patient eye, you can (relatively) easily see the fungi, protozoa, bacteria, and nematodes that play such a vital role in the health of your soil.
So why would a farmer be interested in this? By analyzing your soil in this way, you can:
- Analyze the quality of your compost tea
- Analyze compaction and anaerobic conditions.
- Learn about diseases before they become a problem
- Discover the changes in your soil and how effective your techniques are
Analyzing your soil can be as simple as taking weekly samples and looking under the microscope quickly. This can be all it takes to determine what management techniques are needed, which can then be managed and adjusted.
Analyzing your soil in this way is efficient and effective and helps you get more in touch with the biology of your own soils, giving you a better understanding of how the soil works. Besides, performing this analysis yourself is much more economical in the long run, as there is no need to send expensive soil samples to laboratories for analysis. Most importantly, by knowing your results, you can make the right decisions for yourself, rather than relying on third parties who may not have your best interests in mind.
Keeping your indoor farm clean is of the utmost importance.
Not only does it turn out to be a better work environment, but it also helps prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
It’s important to keep both the inside and outside of your farm clean, along with the tools and surfaces you use.
Supplies you’ll always want to have on hand include:
- Broom and dustpan
- Mop, bucket, and floor cleaner
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Scrub brush
These labels can be made with a label maker, a piece of masking tape, or whatever you prefer.
The point is, you need something to keep up with your plants.
Labels should include information such as which plant is growing there and any important dates (such as when you planted and transplanted it). This makes keeping track of your crops much easier.
There are several reasons for labeling your food. The first is that your brand is important. If people like your product, they will specifically search for it and return it again and again because they recognize the packaging. Another is that labels make your business look professional. Leaving your bags or suitcases empty will give them an unfinished look and the customer will have to ask for their contents and price, which you won’t always do. Let the label speak for you.
Log Books (or similar products)
Like labels, records help you stay organized.
You should make regular notes about the physical appearance of your crops, such as the level of symptoms that indicate a problem. If you have a laptop or special software to track this, you can take better care of your plants.
Plus, you can see how plants have responded to previous treatments so you can learn and adapt to the future.
And it helps you estimate potential harvest times from the actual growth rates of your plants.
This record is for farmers to observe the climate, management, results, and impact of agricultural practices. The purpose of this record is:
- Encourage farmers to document their observations and actions;
- Monitoring and evaluation of interventions; and
- Promoting social learning
Use a log for every exercise. The registry has been slightly modified for use in other contexts.
Thermometer And Hygrometer
Thermometers and hygrometers help you ensure that your environment is right for your crops. You want at least an air thermometer and a water thermometer.
With hydroponic systems you need to make sure the nutrient-rich water is at the right temperature or your plants will have a hard time absorbing it.
A hygrometer is a device used to measure the amount of water vapor in the air, on the ground, or in a confined space. It is mainly used in meteorological science to measure humidity. The moisture meter can be used for various branches such as industry, agriculture, construction, catering, heating, ventilation, etc.
Also, it detects incorrect levels of humidity in buildings that can lead to poor storage conditions and a healthy environment. Since high humidity can lead to household pollutants, mold, and viruses, humidity can cause skin irritation, electrostatic discharge, and respiratory problems.
You also want to make sure that the air temperature matches the desired range of your crops. A hygrometer measures humidity, which is important to prevent choking and nutrient deficiencies.
Too much moisture makes it difficult for plants to breathe, causing problems with absorbing new water and nutrients.
All plants need light to grow strong and healthy. If you start sowing indoors in the spring, the days are not very long. Even next to a window, those little plants don’t get as much light as they should. If they only get light from the window, they grow tall, thin, and weak. Once the seedlings sprout, they need 12 to 14 hours of strong light every day, so you’ll need the help of the right lights to grow the seeds indoors. The grow lights should be placed just inches above the trays or just above the top of the dome cover.
Peat granulate is another option or alternative to flats. The beads are generally supplied as a small disc of dehydrated culture medium, in a mesh bag. Just add warm water and they hydrate quickly to full size, usually about an inch wide and 2 inches high.
Peat pellets are great for things like cucumbers, squash, and squash, which contain large seeds and sometimes don’t respond well to being transplanted multiple times. They can also be packed well in seedling trays.
The only thing to remember with peat pellets is to cut several slots in the mesh when you are going to plant your seedlings in the ground. In theory, the mesh should break off and allow the roots to come out, but sometimes this doesn’t happen quickly enough. Cutting the mesh 4 to 5 times will give your plant easy access to spread its roots in the garden soil.
Some seeds need a hit from cold winter weather to begin their germination process, and others need soil that starts to cool and warms up slowly in the spring. However, the types of seeds we generally start indoors, such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons, work best with warm soil in the beginning. For this, heating mats for seedlings are very useful. They are designed to fit under a standard seed tray. They raise the soil temperature to about 10 degrees above room temperature, the ideal temperature for germination, and keep it there.
Thermal mats can also improve and speed germination. It is important to remove the mats or take them out once the seedlings have hatched. Too much heat will cause them to grow too fast and can get too big for your container before it is hot enough to plant outside.
Other measuring instruments
There are many more measuring tools you will need for an indoor farm.
Just to name a few: scales, measuring cups, pipettes, and a ruler.
The scale will help you weigh your crops and the seeds you are about to sow.
Use measuring cups to measure nutrient solution and loose growing media (e.g. clay pellets or coco).
Pipettes allow you to take very accurate measurements.
For example, if a product has a small dose, such as 1 ml per gallon, the only way to measure that amount accurately is a pipette.
Finally, use a ruler to keep track of your plant growth, including height, leaf size, and width.
While these aren’t the only tools you will need for an indoor farm, they will definitely get you off to a great start and help you maintain the life of your crops.