On a cold Feburary morning, we were contacted by a local group seeking assistance. Plant Chicago is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that acts as a small business incubator, and aims to assist the urban agriculture movement through education. They were in need of equipment in order to collect data from their aquaponic systems, aiming to monitor temperature, Ph, dissolved oxygen, humidity, and even plant growth, via the arduino platform. Being that this project is super cool and we have the Geekduino platform, combined with our Sensor Shield which allows for simple and rapid prototyping using a wide range of sensors, we obliged this request. Excited to see what Plant Chicago had in the works, we arranged a trip to The Plant.
Our first chance to visit was on Valentine’s Day, and what a lovely day to make new friends. Nestled in a group of enormous industrial parks, this old building, known as The Plant, is the home of Plant Chicago. Though it is massive, it stands unassuming among the smoke stacks and steel frame factories nearby. Like your mama probably told you, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and we were excited to see what they had to offer. We met up with the President of the Auxiliary Board, and began the tour.
There is a large, inviting lobby beyond the entry steps. Every room bustles with activity. There are several businesses taking residence there, and more moving in. There are algae bioreactors in the windows, giant water tanks on the walls, and everywhere you look, there are signs of activity. There is a small table in this enormous room, with a small fish tank on it. A healthy fish swims around the tank, as water flows to the plants above. This is the first aquaponic system you see in the building, and it is a teaching tool, showing the nature of a closed-loop system.
Being shown around some of the more seemingly vacant areas of the building, we are informed of business that came and went, as well as ones that are moving in, and plans to use spaces as community areas and markets. There is a bakery and a fromagere on the upper floors. A mushroom farm, and a battery of aquaponic farms reside in the basement. The Plant is bustling with activity, and big changes are happening constantly.
We got a chance to look at the aquaponic systems that Plant Chicago employs, growing food and providing a valuable learning environment for urban agriculture. Seeing the systems up close and personal was a good way to work out the methods with which experiment data collection could be done with the resources that were available, as well as how we could expand upon them with the equipment we were donating. This is a huge undertaking, but with a Geekduino and the willingness to learn, Plant Chicago will be logging experimental data on these systems in no time. We at Trossen Robotics are confident that Plant Chicago is growing, and we’re looking forward to a relationship that broadens the horizons of both organizations together.