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Tech_And_Sci November 25, 2021 @ 8:45pm
I'll take a look at the docs to see the design of the system & to get an overview of it
Tech_And_Sci November 25, 2021 @ 8:45pm
I can contribute to both the software side of things (Mainly with Python) and the biology aspect as well
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 6:32pm
Comparing the performance of tight-planted groups that we precisely water each part of would be a very neat way to show how much more effective a robotic solution is compared to a watering can
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 6:32pm
The biology still needs defining as a problem, that's the fun part! It'll more or less be selecting the best plants to demonstrate the system with, which likely means fast growing things or groups of plants that have decent co-growing
Tech_And_Sci November 25, 2021 @ 6:31pm
With regards to software, what level of Python is being used? I have quite a bit of experience with Python & the Pandas library but will be expanding into Machine Learning & learning MATLAB as well within the next few weeks. And with regards to Biology, what exactly is the plan for that? Any sort of bookwork, I can handle (that is if I am understanding correctly what bookwork means in this context 😁)
Iyosha November 25, 2021 @ 6:01pm
Not sure what I can do to help otherwise, I like growing stuff and tech. A bit spooped by making electronic stuff though.
Iyosha November 25, 2021 @ 5:59pm
Is fair enough lol
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 5:58pm
This is a totally open source project but that source is a bit of a mess right now lol
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 5:58pm
Absolutely! As we validate the assembly against the intended design I'll be writing up a how-to manual for manufacture and construction
Iyosha November 25, 2021 @ 5:55pm
🙂 is there a chance of getting instructions on how to do this stuff? Would also like to test out the gear when I have a chance
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 5:53pm
A good image of the mover assembly with stepper mounted on the rail should be enough as a teaser image
rough93 November 25, 2021 @ 5:52pm
and you can tell me what needs assembly
rough93 November 25, 2021 @ 5:52pm
😆 oh no, I'll get you some as soon as I can then! Shop is closed due to the holiday at the moment but soon(TM)
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 5:48pm
Waiting on some hardware photos 😉
rough93 November 25, 2021 @ 5:48pm
put this in #📰nexus-project-news too
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 25, 2021 @ 12:31pm
@​Tech_And_Sci Just to provide an update on progress **Hardware** - Majority of mechanical design is complete - the only remaining placeholders are the ground-running wheels which will be derived from SSAM's design, and the water storage and pump system. Electrical system is fully defined using COTS parts and just needs to be validated with the hardware. - A lot of the expensive parts (motors, electronics, larger beam components) have been purchased and @​Cameron (SSAM) is currently handling manufacturing **Software** - The low-level control software directly uses FarmBot's backend with Python interface. Again, waiting for first testing to validate. Some additonal work will be required to handle positioning but the API can handle almost everything just fine - Mid-level task prioritisation is done in a boilerplate fashion, viewable on - High-level task adaptation is being planned on paper but could use some work implementing. - Plant simulation in progress, will help with task adaptation **Biology** - Largely TBD, but the system is versatile enough to handle more or less anything we throw at it. Just needs a bit of bookwork and discussion with MDRS to decide the best option
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 22, 2021 @ 12:25am
At that point there should be nice animations to be had
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 22, 2021 @ 12:24am
Next step is building the Gompertz growth model based on S A Croft's thesis on the subject
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 22, 2021 @ 12:24am
^ This is just a preliminary test. It shows two species (red and blue), each at a random size and location, competing for space
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 22, 2021 @ 12:23am
Goal here is to simulate plants growing in a semi-realistic fashion (Gompertz function for growth rate, with a factor for availability of soil nutrition and water in the root area) - and then we can start comparing strategies for controlling it with an automation scheme
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 22, 2021 @ 12:21am
Finally getting started on the stochastic plant growth model I've been planning on paper for a few weeks
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 8:02pm
That said, if you guys want to set up a hydroponic tent I have got that system down to a sweet science. I can grow darn near anything in there with a bare minimum of energy, nutrients, water, and space.
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 7:48pm
I do want to make clear I am an idiot and am really just a fan boy in this field. I have 4 garden beds and some hydroponic tents I experiment with, but I am in no way an expert and everything I say should be taken as the opinion of an optimistic fool
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 7:46pm
I absolutely agree though that efficient resource usage, including space and time, are key factors that automated systems can help solve.
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 7:45pm
I actually don't contribute to the FARMM project, and don't have the skills they need anyway lol. Personally I am defending the position that automation is viable, but it isn't a perfect good. Nothing is. I just believe the cost / benefit calculation of automation becomes overwhelming in some instances. It doesn't solve all problems, and it creates many of its own, but the same can be said about humans.
KaleOverlord (Alex) November 21, 2021 @ 7:37pm
So far, my limited agricultural experience involves some garlic farming, and my grandfather farmed for his entire life and I saw a little bit of that. I think FARMM as an end product needs to be larger and more versatile. See, you have to ask the question, "what does FARMM add that over a conventional tractor?" And, to me, that answer needs to be precision allowing for less overall material to be moved, as well as more versatility with fewer types of attachments. Like, you could imagine a carbon negative farm where you have solar-charged electric farm bots that use a lot less energy than tractors by being precise about how much soil is moved.
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 6:12pm
There are, at least, two conversations here. Scale and security. Automation really only makes sense at scale. If this is a conversation about a dozen people in a habitat with other duties beyond a specialization in food production, then definitely automation raises more problems than it solves. But if we are talking about 1000+ people, each being a specialist in their field, automation begins to solve more problems than it creates. When combined with redundant systems and capacity to produce more than is needed to allow for maintenance that has to take place, complex systems can become just as safe, and much more efficient, then hands on systems.
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:50pm
The best application of FARMM's automation is to enable the "botanist architect" to make broad sweeping decisions, the logic interprets that into granular actions and acts on the plants
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:48pm
I did a few years of volunteering at a community wildspace in London and was really struck by how the leaders were barely even concerned with the performance of plants or even large subsystem like ponds, but kept a laser focus on how the whole 3-acre habitat was changing
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:47pm
To me the true gold standard for this would be giving the operator an understanding of the interactions of the whole system, so they can control the systems variables in the way that a skilled microfarmer would. Of course, that includes the ability to dive to the level of individual plants, but the emphasis is on providing the ability to appreciate - and to control - the whole symphony
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 4:46pm
I have a specific enclosed system project happening in SpaceTek right now which is using VRM bioTech. The logical outcome of your project is to find methodologies for sustaining enclosed system food chains. Perhaps there are some synergies once you have refined, tested and analysed your systems 👍 In the mean time ask me if you need knowledge or help
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:44pm
Now you're talking my language 😄
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:44pm
Obviously a lot of that doesn't map well to terrestrial farms or small-scale domestic food production because people can't deliver the same level of care as even a part-time professional working in a biomass module for a space habitat
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 4:44pm
just get on and build your systems and lets see what probelms they solve for enclosed systems. I think that is a better approach
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 4:44pm
thats cool SAM. To much philosophy talk for this project 🙂
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:43pm
My reply would be, the core operating principle between FARMM is absolutely not to remove the role of the crew botanist/agriculturalist from the biomass generation process. The way I think of it, the core principle is to *extend the influence of the botanist, to allow them to give the same level of care that they'd give to one plant, to the entire field*
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 21, 2021 @ 4:41pm
I agree with those two messages an awful lot, and I'm extremely glad that someone is working on commercial systems with that philosophy! The mainstream of agritech too often seems like a battle between huge industrialised farming and fringe permaculturists
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 4:41pm
This might not be a problem if it wasnt for the fact in an enclosed system within a hostile external environment if you cannot sustain the growing of food you die 🙂 All the participants in this environment must know HOW to grow the food and be experienced in it as a base component of their daily life. As i said we are not against it - in fact we love certain ideas like timed nutrient and purple light systems to control the outgasing etc...... we have just seen the problems involved in growing food, have experience with human nature in agriculture, have done a lot of study and experimentation and our conclusions are that too much automation or concentration on machine driven agriculture in enclosed systems generally causes more problems further down the line. I'm not talking about the peculiar situation the world currently has of needing farming at scale. This is almost impossible to do without some form of automation, and is another subject entirely. Having said all the above, we are happy to help people with that knowledge to hopefully ensure their systems dont fail or when they do fail, the people needing the food to survive have the right knowledge and know how to apply it so they can eat. 🙂
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 4:41pm
inefficiency is not necessarily fixed by automated technology. Automated systems tend to make humans lazy in terms of understanding and involvement. in small enclosed systems it is much more sensible to have people involved at a very hands on level to ensure they have complete contact and intimate knowledge of what it actually takes to make enough food to live. If the automated systems die in a completely hostile environment and you are depending on them for efficiency then you will have likely lost the knowledge needed to grow food at a base level. A number of years ago we did a specific and controlled test of automated systems in Mawson station in Antarctica. We found that people very quickly came to rely on the systems and concentrated on other duties assuming the systems would do the work. When we remotely turned off the automated systems we found the knowledge of even how to fix the systems let alone how to grow food was not a part of the thinking of the people involved in the station. This was after months of training and education in system maintenance, growing methods & practices, nutrient control etc.
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 3:33pm
On Earth, with lots of space and resources, there is room for error and inefficient systems, which means success can be achieved with less knowledge. When those advantages are not available, knowledge of the system involved becomes even more important.
Betamaxx November 21, 2021 @ 3:27pm
I have no stake on the funding aspect, but not sure I understand the comment about people not understanding how to grow their food in enclosed spaces. Unless we have literally fully automated farms there will still be people testing the nutrients and engaging at every level of the growth. The biggest thing automation does is not to remove knowledge, but to reduce labor.
bigred November 21, 2021 @ 3:11pm
@​Sam (FARMM) last night I said my brother (the founder of VRM Biologik) doesnt want to invest in the FARMM project. that probably needs a better explanation. We have 2 basic principles: - we must give back more than we take from the earth - we must educate people in the knowledge that they need to survive. We are not against automated or hi-tech farming (we have much hi-tech development and many automated processes). However we try hard to get people hands on with the agri food processes and have found that machine automation in small systems/projects removes the people from the land and therefore the base knowledge. Ken (my brother's) basic comment was that if people go to space or live in enclosed systems then the need to understand the way the system works and how to grow their food is even greater. Automating that process is asking for troubles and loss of knowledge later on. The biggest problem we face in society these days is the lack of basic knowledge of what it takes to have the lifestyle we want. If we follow the green movements suggestions and stop mining then we have no resources to have any of the things we currently use to complain about the environment. People are divorced from this basic understanding of what it takes to have their comfortable life - even to have an internet. So at VRM we try to help people to understand this from an agri and environmental point of view. That is the main reason for not investing in the FARMM project. However that does not preclude information on soil, nutrient and plant action, testing, growing, and other scientific or educational info you might ask for. He and my sister have not told me I cant help just that we wont invest 🙂 So ask if you are hitting any snags and I will do my best to answer or provide the info/contact point to best help.
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 16, 2021 @ 5:24pm
@​Cameron (SSAM) All holes 6mm or nearby imperial equivalent
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 16, 2021 @ 5:21pm
Oop, can't believe I missed that, let me check
rough93 November 16, 2021 @ 5:08pm
There's no hole callouts on this drawing. What size?
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 3:24pm
Just 12 bolts to turn it into two A frames and the crossbeams
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 3:24pm
If I've got my numbers right, it should come into a few smaller pieces very easily
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 3:18pm
also need to make sure we have enough of the manufactured pieces from PO 1 for you
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 3:18pm
Yeah! Going to need to find some space for it
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 3:17pm
And then we start bolting the frame together! Hell yeah
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 3:16pm
Will have these done by Tuesday when I can get into the workshop
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 9:29am
3x 24", 3x48"
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 1:13am
How many of each?
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 12:24am
Yeah, metre-wide doesn't seem that big until you lay out a metre of metal
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 12:24am These ones here
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 12:23am
Banana for scale too
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 12:23am
It's b i g
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 12:23am
Are they the same aa previously?
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 12:21am
Do you have the drawings for how to cut it down and drill the holes?
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 12, 2021 @ 12:21am
Now that's a very nice amount of aluminium section
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 12:20am
rough93 November 12, 2021 @ 12:20am
@​Sam (FARMM) so...
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 4, 2021 @ 11:41pm
Do you get epoxies that dissolve well? Only time I've ever had to clean it up, took a buttload of IPA
KaleOverlord (Alex) November 4, 2021 @ 11:21pm
Depends on which one you use
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 4, 2021 @ 11:21pm
Biggest issue is dismantling a glued joint is harder than a welded (or obviously bolted) one
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 4, 2021 @ 11:20pm
I like epoxies in general as an alternative to welding - their chemical resistance is pretty good right?
KaleOverlord (Alex) November 4, 2021 @ 11:20pm
Probably a lot easier than welding as well.
KaleOverlord (Alex) November 4, 2021 @ 11:18pm
I think some of them are cheaper and would get most of the job done for most things on small robotics projects
Ross (/u/_albertross) November 4, 2021 @ 11:13pm
Bloody hell - 20MPa shear strength is really not messing around for an epoxy
KaleOverlord (Alex) November 4, 2021 @ 11:09pm
For SSAM and FARMM, you guys might consider using structural adhesives. They can be quite robust, and not that expensive. Good way to get around welding/riveting, while also having something that is quite strong:
Betamaxx October 30, 2021 @ 7:45pm
Mars Society released a video on Algae as Fertilizer a couple days ago:
Saki October 29, 2021 @ 9:23am
no, they are grown commercially. In fact, some are known to make algae blooms and are considered a pest (or weed rather). Diazotrophic algae can be readily ordered in from culture collections and cultured in standard media on a lab scale as well. So should be no issue to grow them if you fancy.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 28, 2021 @ 11:05pm
Thanks for the info! Are nitrogen-fixing algae any harder to grow than regular types? Seems like it would be a fun desk-scale experiment
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 28, 2021 @ 11:04pm
That's very interesting to hear. I'd bet good money you could use that as a first pass at "bioregeneration" of low-fertility soil, where a few generations of weeds are grown and composted into the soil
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 28, 2021 @ 4:23am
I've seen nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots of alder bushes here in Alaska, and they grow tenaciously on landslides and bare gravel, so they seem to be able to fix their own nitrogen and extract whatever potassium and phosphate and micronutrients they need from rock. (Ironically, they don't seem to like growing in rich soil!) Several weedy plants appear capable of the same trick.
Kwyn-10 October 28, 2021 @ 3:57am
At some point I think you would want to get to a totally self-sustainable system. Otherwise you would end up being reliant on shipments from Earth of fertilizers.
Kwyn-10 October 28, 2021 @ 3:55am
I forgot about this all day, and the conversation has deviated some. It seems based on the soil composition and what others have said it seems like you would have to start growing stuff at first that you could use to accumulate biomass to start building up the soil. Unless the plan is to totally use chemical fertilizers, and non-soil based growing mediums.
Betamaxx October 28, 2021 @ 2:15am
Perchlorate article
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:49pm
Atmospheric compression generates an absolute assload of heat, many hundreds of kilojoules per kg of atmosphere input. The limiting temperature of that heat comes from the thermodynamics (want to stay in the gaseous part of the CO2 phase diagram) but can get pretty high
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:46pm
Solar thermal or low-grade waste heat from chemical processes
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:46pm
Solar roasting might be a good way to convert toxic perchlorates to chlorides. I think solar thermal is going to be huge for Mars industry, even if it's annoyingly intermittent for power.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:44pm
I did a bit of work on this a while back and found you can react out perchlorates with a high-temperature, high-pressure steam reaction but that's obviously energetic as hell
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:44pm
In theory perchlorate should react with any "fuel" like glucose, but I doubt it would do much in those concentrations
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:42pm
I was saving the resulting brine in an open dish, but with our low winter humidity the open dish now has salt crystals instead of brine. I should test those to see if they're still perchlorate, or if something took the oxygen off leaving chloride.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:40pm
Solubility is 15g/L but that may be impacted by other soluble products
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:39pm
Makes a lot of sense, that's the approach I'd take. I suspect you'd do better with a flow process as the perchlorate wouldn't have time to crystallise out of solution
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:37pm
Mix soil and water, shake, let the soil settle (sometimes for a month, due to laziness rather than requirement lol!), pour off the clear water, repeat.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:37pm
What kind of process are you using for the washing - just soak and drain?
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:36pm
I do have an experiment running where I added 1% potassium perchlorate to some basalt dust, and have been slowly washing it with distilled water. It's down to hundreds of ppm salt after three washings, dropping slower than I'd thought, but I'm just doing a labscale washing where you mix the water and soil, a countercurrent approach should be more water efficient.
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:34pm
I can't figure out why so few plants evolved to embrace the most common evaporites like sodium and chlorine, but they universally need potassium! Edited to add: found a super long paper on this very question: (tl;dr version: plants need to maintain low ionic concentration relative to the ground so osmotic pressure pushes nutrients into the roots. Sodium requires extra metabolic work to push out, so the useful ions can flow in.)
Orion Lawlor - Alaska October 27, 2021 @ 11:33pm
On Earth salts get washed out of rocks into either the ocean or evaporite lakes. On Mars, I'd expect the same thing, so very little salt on the uplands, and huge amounts (double digit percent) at the lowest points. How much this happened, and exactly where, does depend on your assumptions about duration of the "warm, wet Mars" period, and subsequent wind / glacier / volcanic resurfacing.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 11:23pm
Is there any data on concentrations of halogen salts? The data I've seen seems to vary wildly, from the graph above at a few percent to assays from the first landers that claim 10-20%
henry-manelski October 27, 2021 @ 11:19pm
Curiosity has found nitrates, which form from lightning strikes on earth, but there are very little. 70-1,100 ppm
henry-manelski October 27, 2021 @ 11:17pm
Very little in the soil
henry-manelski October 27, 2021 @ 11:17pm
Getting nitrogen out of the atmosphere is probably the best bet
Saki October 27, 2021 @ 7:53pm
I have been summoned! Yes, I am happy to help giving some background on nitrogen fixation. Let me know what I can help with. The Martian atmosphere has N2, which is an abundant source of nitrogen, but N2 is unavailable for plants. Some legumes can build a symbiotic relationship with bacteria belonging to the Rhizobium genus in their root nodules to overcome this: the bacteria turn N2 into nitrates, and they receive protection and nutrients from the plants in return. Some algae species are able to fix N2 without plants and can be grown as food directly. Trichodesmium fixes the most N2 on Earth currently, and is a basis for the marine ecosystem, but its not a good choice for food production as it grows slow and prefers low densities and low nutrient environments. Species of anabaena and nostoc are much better algae for this purpose as they are more well adapted to cultivation. There are currently existing projects that grow these algae then mix them into soil as a fertilizer. So called biostimulants generally outperform synthetic fertilizers in field trials. Have you listened to our presentation at IAC introducing our Martian alga production system? If not, please say hi to my colleague, Matjaz if you see him there.
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 5:06pm
@​Saki might know something on this topic?
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 5:05pm
I know next to nothing about nitrogen fixing algae but I bet they could be used to make a biofertiliser
Betamaxx October 27, 2021 @ 5:04pm
I was under the impression we could "industrialize" the nitrogen fixing issue with bioreactors, but would obviously still need a balanced crop rotation to manage nutrient usage
Ross (/u/_albertross) October 27, 2021 @ 5:04pm
That might be fun to test out with the FARMM robot and see the effect on soil quality in the region over time
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