Water is vital to life. With the world’s population steadily increasing, the demand for accessible clean water for human use such as irrigation is vital to humanity’s sustainability and prosperity. Specifically, the system presented in this paper will take water from a water source, extract impurities and harmful pathogens, and will treat the water supply in order to provide the best possible conditions water can provide for growth. A centrifugal pump, which requires a continuous supply of water to run and promote a quality flow rate, will pump ocean water from the Upper Newport Bay. In order to remove floc, salt, bacteria and pathogens from the water, electrocoagulation, solar thermal distillation, and a forward osmosis with a hydrophilic polyethersulfone membrane will be used, respectively. To add the necessary nutrients needed, will be added. Finally, an acid/base injection system will be integrated into the process to adjust
pH of the water as needed. Beginning in the 19th century, the world population and its population growth rate grew much more than they did in previous times. Humanity has ballooned from roughly 900 million people in 1800 (Kremer) to over 7 billion people in 2019, thanks largely to advances in healthcare, agricultural practices, and sex education (Lenntech). Yet the human population is beginning to grow at a rate that is far quicker than one our agricultural practices and our planet’s resources can support. In fact, a 2017 United Nations report on the world’s population predicted that 11 billion humans would inhabit the planet by the end of 2100. This jaw-dropping conclusion challenges us to manifest an effective response to such a massive acceleration in population growth.
Our response to that growth is an automated strawberry cultivation robot of our own design, paired with a hydroponic system of revolving PVC pipes of strawberries on a motorized shelf; the robot can plant, water, and harvest strawberries on the bottom pipe as the shelf of pipes cycles to strawberries that need such delicate care. This solution is effective for two reasons; the strawberry pipe shelves’ vertical orientation allows farmers to plant more strawberries per square mile -- and in the case of AGRIspire, more strawberries per floor -- and hydroponics has proven time and time again to be more efficient and environmentally friendly than practices from conventional agriculture.
The robot’s design phase posed several major challenges, including establishing
communications among the robot’s various parts, deciding how to move the robot with
conveyor belt wheels, determining the structure of the revolving shelf, and producing a complete assembly of the system on SOLIDWORKS in just one afternoon. While we were able to solve most issues after some thought, redoing mates in SOLIDWORKS consumed much of what little time we had to complete the project. Precision farming is a developing field of agriculture that aims to reduce waste and increase crop yield. Using precision farming to improve vertical farming can result in a massive biomass yield. However, one current problem with vertical farming is its high cost and the maintenance
needed to keep it working properly. With the power of software and artificial intelligence we can combat this issue and bring an even higher yield to extend vertical farms as they exist now. We envision a future in which vertical farming is the main supply of food for the world and new innovations in technology can help us achieve this goal. Green Wave Technologies is the realization of this autonomous vertical farming future. Green Wave Technologies! employs sensors and cameras mounted throughout the different floors of the vertical farm, periodically logging information about the environment. The collected
information is sent to a centralized database system which is accessible by users via a
user-friendly platform. Information that is collected in the database can be analyzed in order to determine favorable factors for maximum crop yield, enabling research and development . Integral to our concept is the application of low power systems and design. This means that both hardware and software should be managed to reduce our energy footprint as much as possible. One of our primary challenges was understanding how to solve our issue of long processing times for sending our information from the sensors to the central server. Another issue was how to create an applicable neural network that could be scaled up to extremely large farms, which contain many more data points than a standard small-scale farm. We also integrated computer vision to monitor the health of the strawberries, and reinforced our wired sensor network to be more robust against hijacking or software attacks.
While traditional horizontal farming has been the most commonly globally utilized source for large scale agriculture, farming inefficiencies such as pesticide limitation, water runoff waste, insufficient crop yield, and scarcity of nutrient rich plants have presented to the challenge of how to best address the shortcomings from traditional farming by seeking alternative forms of farming. The design created for a vertical sky farm shows potential in solving these issues since it allows for a larger population to efficiently be fed strawberries while at the same time minimizing the material cost. Innovations such the use of facade windows help address excessive energy consumption. However with all high story structures in California, the increased probability of
seismic activity also require the use of the team’s third innovation of a rotational friction
dampener to provide reduction of the structure’s vibration when subjected to natural frequency seismic loads.
Circular structure of the sky farm reduces the drag coefficient of seismic forces on our
Self-healing concrete base provides a solid and sustainable foundation for the structure Rotational friction dampers secured beneath the base of the building allows building to
withstand seismic acceleration of up to 1.5 G’s
LED light fixtures evenly spaced throughout the cultivation area ensures that the plants are growing under a full light spectrum, providing a helpful and nurturing environment for the plants during their sprouting and fruiting phases.
There was difficulty in calculating surface areas necessary to determine static loads and
moment distributions due to unorthodox shape of structure. The team struggled with finding a viable means of irrigating plants, as well as spacing the hydroponic gardens such that the harvesting machines could reap the plants with maximum efficiency. To find the surface area of the building, the team broke down the exterior building into constituent parts, took the measurements for each respective part, and summed the areas of each respective shape. The team resolved the spacing of the hydroponic gardens by arranging the plants into shelves that staggered upwards to an elevation of 8.5 feet. This allows for the distribution of light to become more even, increasing the likelihood of an optimal yield.
Glass facades are placed on the outer circle to reflect sunlight and prevent temperature
fluctuations from harming potential yield of crops. The circular design minimizes the drag coefficient for seismic forces in the presence of earthquakes, as well as provide an intersecting point for all members within to interconnect, providing excellent structural support for each floor in the building.
The goal is to transport water from an abundant source, extract impurities, add nutrients and deliver it to a farm at a pH for optimum crop health and growth, all in a cost-efficient manner. Build a robot capable of planting strawberry seeds, pulling weeds, performing soil analysis, and harvesting ripe strawberries. However, our team deviated from this goal slightly by dividing the automation among a robot and a hydroponic shelf of revolving strawberry PVC pipes. Create a software based solution to increase crop yield, monitor environment levels, and gather data on crops in order to allow for more efficient vertical farms and help research. The design of the building aimed to accommodate the farming installations necessary to produce at least 1500 tons of strawberries in a year. The design process prioritized efficiency, maximizing yield, low environmental impact, and cost minimization.
The Green Giants:
In order to produce high-quality food and feed a growing world population, new methods of sustainable farming must be developed that are designed to increase yields and reduce ecological impact. Unlike traditional cultivation, vertical farming has the potential to reduce the need to create additional farmland and increase the productivity of a farm by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop due to year-round productivity. Our goal will be to establish a robotic-centric approach to agriculture that takes advantage of modern
engineering simulations, mathematics, the revolution in sensor technology, controlled environment agriculture, fertigation, and indoor farming techniques to transform modern food production. The spire will have an 18- floor, 256.5 x 114 ft farm located around the UC Irvine campus, and our goal is optimizing it to produce 15,000 tons of food annually.
Presented at the UCI Engineering Conference, February 16-18, 2019 at University of California Irvine.