Saturday, 5 February 2011

Ardvino is born!

I attended last week, and it was awesome. One of the talks that got me really inspired was Sarah Sharp's Gardino talk, on implementing an automatic watering system.

It occurred to me at that point, as someone who is intensely interested in a certain plant, Vitis vinefera, which is notoriously poorly understood, that this was extremely relevant to my interests.

As a winemaker, a passing knowledge of viticulture is an important part of my knowledge base. What's also important is that whilst most viticulturists have a good grip on the macro climate of their vineyards, they generally don't have a clue about the microclimate of a given vine. Given the sorts of measurements being used in research vineyards, for instance, it's pretty obvious to me that a lot of environmental characteristics simply aren't measured, with respect to the microclimate of any given vine. There's a good reason for this - rarely are viticulturists handy with soldering irons, and the commercial solutions (even if they're available in Australia, which I'm not at all sure of) are horrifically expensive.

However, the arduino platform is relatively cheap, and I'm pretty familiar with solder. Thus, the Ardvino. I'm not entirely sure as yet which bits and pieces I'll need. At ground level (about 15cm down), moisture, temperature, acidity/pH; at canopy level/s humidity, temperature, light levels (visible and UV),  gas mix (O2/CO2). I'll be checking with people more knowledgeable than I to see if I've left anything out, or if any of those isn't really relevant. Ideally, I'd like it to transmit the data over wireless, or possibly download the data from the device at regular intervals via USB/ethernet. Constant wired connection is out of the question, as quite simply it's a long way (often kilometres) from any door to any given vine, usually. I'll be using my balcony garden as a testbed initially, and if I can get support from my lecturers at USQ, at one of the research vines out in Stanthorpe later on. I don't know if it's possible to make this rugged enough for commercial use, considering it should probably be in the ground for a few years. I'm hoping I should be able to create this thing for about $300, although as yet, I don't know how realistic that is. I need to do a lot more research, and get my paws on some bits. I think I'll be spending a bit of free time at the Brisbane Hackerspace. I'm hoping also to be able to write a paper or three on various observations (and how they interact with yield, sugar/acidity levels in berries at harvest and over time, timing of veriasion, etc). There's just so much that isn't known, especially about Queensland vines.

It looks like I'll have a talk to give next year in Ballarat, at any rate.