With record high food prices, chaotic weather systems are decimating crops around the world, and there are no signs of slowing population growth anytime soon — growing your own produce has never been more important than it is now. As urban dwellers turn to mini-farming, technology is playing an increasingly important role in maximizing yields from a small place. Today I would like to highlight some of these wonderful projects.

I would consider myself a mini farmer. Within six months, we are 90% provided with vegetables; all year round we have a constant supply of eggs from our free range hens. One or two tunnels help extend the growing season with the unpredictable and ridiculously wet English weather, and provide year-round lettuce. All this from a small plot of land and a former townhouse in a quiet suburb of London. The past year has been spent digging, building and cleaning; this year I hope to integrate a little more technology.

Automatic chicken door

Combine an electric drill, a car battery, an Arduino, and some solar panels; and you will get an electric chicken coop door opener. Waking up at 5 am is the last thing on your mind during the winter months, but chickens are temperamental and need light. For the mini farmer makerman64 it was too much. Check out the full build instructions on his blog; The video below shows just how awesome it is.


Recently successfully funded, Growerbot is an Arduino standalone garden control and monitoring package with light, temperature and humidity sensors; connect to a light source and sprinklers for complete control and automatic growth.

The goal is to have the ideal location and specific plant growth charts available on the internet so that everyone can download the most proven methods and use them to automatically set ideal conditions. The Bot Maker DIY Kit was available on Kickstarter for just $100.

Ortho Domi

Significantly more advanced than the Growerbot, Horto Domi is a complete raised floor geodesic system with an integrated earthworm box, but otherwise much the same. Unfortunately $500 makes it quite exorbitant for most of us, especially when the whole idea of ​​growing your own money is to save money. (well, it doesn’t poison itself with the sheer amount of chemicals in most supermarket products).

mini farming

If nothing else, building a geodesic dome looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Global Village Constructor

The hotly titled GVCS 50 is (aspiring to be) an open source planning and building instruction book for all the gears needed for modern civilization; Basically it is agricultural equipment. The idea is to give farmers and small communities around the world the opportunity to live with at least some modern conveniences without breaking the bank to extort brand name cars. They disassembled this into 50 different machines, each fully user serviceable and easy to manufacture (and therefore low cost).


Right now, the «civilization starter pack» only contains complete training materials for 4 of the 50 core machines proposed, but as lofty as the goal is, it’s certainly a wonderful thing that can benefit small communities everywhere. And if you want, you can immediately start assembling the tractor (they estimate that 2 people will take approximately 8 hours) . Seriously.

like a mini farm

Humidity sensor for indoor plants

Since we have a scale that tweets your weight and the overall quality of the tweets anyway, so bad, we might as well start posting houseplants on twitter. Fortunately, there is a complete set available called Botanicals from Sparkfun at low price $99.95 . Yes, that’s what it’s worth for a houseplant twitter.

Of course, as one commentator points out:

all you have to do is remember to check on Twitter to see if your plant needs water.

In my case it will be once a week; my screams dracaena are more likely to be deaf.

mini farming

Some of these mini-farming projects sound great in theory, but I can’t help but think that the effort to install automatic sprinklers and various sensors probably doesn’t justify a slight increase in production; There are already various non-technical methods that you should master before turning to electronics. However, I would really appreciate an automated chicken door, so maybe I’ll start there; and who doesn’t need their own inexpensive tractor, to be honest now?

Do you have any gardening techniques you would like to share?

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