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The Stack

How to move greenhouses?

How can anyone have stable yet customizable farm automation at their fingertips? With the Object Syndicate application platform it is possible to automate any farm or greenhouse with open source technologies such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Python. Our approach provides industry standards to agriculture with data management and a broad array of free and professional applications.

The Heart.

At its heart is Crop🌱Watch, a Django powered web server which stores sensor data. Django provides a database abstraction layer and task queue built in Python. When Crop🌱Watch is deployed on a Raspberry-Pi it has access to the GPIO and UART interface. This can be connected to a programmable logic controller for industrial scale automation. It is also possible to centralize your internet of things device data for processing before sending it to external APIs for cloud storage or services. Crop🌱Watch is available on Github under an Apache 2.0 license.

Object Syndicate Farm Automation Stack
A fine example.

ioTank, also available on Github. Is our flagship internet of things appliance and a great accomplice to Crop🌱Watch for system engineers seeking an example to build their own iteration.

Beyond open source.

We don’t publish all our work in the public domain. To compliment our open source components we also provide professional hardware options such as light, VPD, and water metric systems. Backed by our consulting and training we will make sure your farm has access to the most advanced tools available. Allowing the consumer to put trust in your product with proven quality.

Drinking the blockchain kool-aid

The funnest game.

I first heard about cryptocurrency and bitcoin in 2009 working as a support agent in a call center for Dell. At the time the closest thing to it was the currency in games like World of Warcraft and so I found it intriguing. I also didn’t think it would go very far (🤣) since I couldn’t tie it back to USD as easily as I could things like video game gold. I revisited the idea in 2013 when I heard about MtGox and how bitcoin made the best currency for Magic the Gathering cards, and decided I could try GPU mining bitcoin. At the time it was possible to mine using a pool and earn enough to start day trading.

A friend at work had told me day trading cold be fun and I wanted to try it. I didn’t have 10k laying around to pay a broker. Thus it was an obvious move to play ‘the funnest game’ and day trade bitcoins. I did pretty well and earned about 100USD in a few weeks. This from simply GPU mining and trading. Of course the bubble grew one weekend while I was out fishing and I lost it all. MtGox shortly after imploded and took with it any trust or interest in crypto I had, until about 2 weeks ago.

Blockchain Punch.

While I was sharpening my hardware chops and building our IoT framework CropWatch, some interesting things were going down with Ethereum and Hyperledger. Unbeknownst to me a new distributed task queue was being cooked with gas.

The EVM or Etherium Virtual Machine allows one to execute code within the blockchain and not just use it as a fiscal ledger. This will allow new models to emerge fostered by the ideas of immutability and no-trust. It took a few tech friends and seeing all the blockchain technologies at Collision (such as Coincierege Club) for me to drink the punch. The final tipping point was listening to Lennart Frantzell of IBM speak in a workshop at Collision. The workshop was about IBM Blockchain and Hyperledger. Of course everyone wants to blockchain themselves and their dog, and many startups in the space are simply ridiculous, knowing when to use the technology and when to default back to traditional databases is going to take some experimentation and time. I already have some good ideas however and in the coming weeks will be working on some decentralized applications to get a better grasp on it.

My advice to anyone still holding out is to at least check out Hyperledger. Since it has no currency and is just a really good distributed immutable database. Hyperledger is best for distributed Internet of Things. My reasoning for that is based on its admin and server model. By allowing a central admin setting up private blockchains becomes possible. By using traditional server models one can eliminate the need for concepts like gas in the EVM. Which makes sense for large IoT applications among large organizations. Since they need many data capture points and can host their own dedicated hardware. Expect to see our IoT applications interfacing as Hyperledger Oracles sometime soon.

NoCo5 Hemp Expo.

NoCo Hemp Expo in Loveland Colorado is a first class event. Industry leaders from around the world converge on this charming city once a year to share information, genetics, hemp based products, and technology. Object Syndicate attended and exhibited our products and promoted open source ideas. We were very honored to be able to share our space with our dear friends at National Hemp Exchange. As well as see some familiar faces in the community. Open source has never been stronger in agriculture and it was exciting to see and speak with so many great people who are eager to participate. A big thanks for the support staff and organizers who bring the convention to life. We look forward to attending for many years to come.

Hemp Industry Solutions.

Living in Colorado is full of excitement and opportunity. We have many things to be excited about, from the fourteeners (the mountain peaks above 14,000 feet), to green chili, fishing in the Rio Grande, and thousands of acres of industrial hemp. We have strong roots in agriculture and a passion for technology, the budding hemp industry is a good place for Object Syndicate to develop solutions. I was introduced to some of the local growers in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico through friends and political activism.

Meeting these amazing people intrigued me to go to the industrial hemp convention, NoCo4. There we met even more amazing people and was completely astonished at the new technology being developed for industrial hemp which will change the world for the better in the near future.  Attending last year exposed us to some great ways we can assist industrial hemp with Internet of Things. We have been developing the ioTank platform to be more suited for custom industrial applications as well as the Luciscan spectrometer. We will be attending NoCo5 this year in April and we hope to see everyone there.

Lasers and plastics in manufacturing.

Here at Object Syndicate we believe in rapid prototyping and low cost entry into experimental hardware. To achieve this we use a 40 watt CnC laser produced by Lihuiyu Studio Labs to mark and engrave the various product boxes we use for hardware. 

This allows for precision machining at any scale without having to worry about outsourcing such a critical component. We are able to decrease risk and increase reliability because of our in house tooling equipment.

While 3D printing has its merits, nothing beats subtractive manufacturing for cost and scale. We are able to shorten the hardware feedback cycle from days and weeks to minutes. 

The ability to take an off-the-shelf project box and turn it into a fully functional prototype is one of our biggest advantages. Once the functioning prototype is built we design custom PCBs and assemble a few units to test the design and calibrate any sensors. After we’re sure the sensors and design are sound we move to a limited production run of a few more devices.

Some early prototype designs for the Luciscan (shown above) were created using exactly these methods.