Today, a notable new addition to the ever-expanding realm of wireless automation and monitoring systems geared to prevent chronic blackthumbs from committing accidental horticide and to help tech-savvy seasoned gardeners increase their yields.  

Dubbed as the “Modern Farmer’s Almanac,” HarvestGeek is an open-source Internet of Things Greenhouse conceived by hydroponic gardening software engineer Michael Alt of Charlotte, N.C.-based startup Evolved Agriculture. Alt recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring his prototype gardening monitoring and automation system, a system that brings brains to the garden while benefiting both the “urban and not-so-urban farmer,” to market. The goal? Alt hopes to raise $25,000 by Feb. 24.

From the Kickstarter campaign homepage:
HarvestGeek is your key to unlocking plant yield potential. Here you can upload pictures to chart your progress, make notes on successes or difficulties you've encountered, ask questions, get feedback, research other grow styles, and share your results with the community. Coupled with the analytical data collected from your grow, you'll be presented with a detailed picture of what works and what doesn't when it comes to producing high quality crops.
The key component of HarvestGeek is an innovative sensor device called the HarvestBot.  Once deployed and configured, the HarvestBot wirelessly transmits vital stats back to HarvestGeek via text, email, Twitter or Facebook for detailed analysis. And, yes, if a plant isn't feeling so hot, the HarvestBot will send out a SOS alert so that action can be taken.
Depending on the specialized HarvestBot station type — Alt has developed five unique, mini USB-powered HarvestBot stations for agri-endeavors of all sizes and types including one for hydroponic growing and one that gives gardeners full automation capabilities in which to remotely control lights, pumps, fans, etc. — the HarvestBot monitors pH levels, soil moisture, air temperature, light intensity and more. Up to 26 HarvestBot stations can operate independently with the BaseStation serving as a communications hub.
If successfully funded, the HarvestGeek Kickstarter campaign will primarily enable Alt to cover hardware production costs as well as expand the HarvestGeek team. Manufacturing and assembly of the devices will be performed locally in North Carolina. Depending on the contribution level, backers of the project will receive everything from a build-it-yourself Harvest Geek starter kit to a fully assembled HarvestBot station of their choosing. The estimated ship date for the completed, fully-assembled HarvestGeek system is July.

Initially designed strictly for mushroom cultivation but modified to serve a much greater purpose, the ultimate goal of the project — to make urban and small-scale farming less time consuming and more efficient and cost effective — is both commendable and ambitious.

The core ideal which we believe at HarvestGeek is that the economics of large-scale industrial agriculture is not a sustainable proposition thus the need for efficient, tested and reproducible methods of small-scale food production. We'd like to see communities producing the bulk of their own food. The benefits to this we believe are many.

By empowering the local food movement, communities will benefit from new employment opportunities, money spent on food will stay in the community, fossil fuel use due to food transportation will drop off sharply, impoverished areas access to (healthy) food will increase, and we will be seeding a new generation with an appreciation for food, their health, and their connection to the Earth.
More — including technical specs and more detail on the five individual HarvestBot stations involved — over at the HarvestGeek website and Kickstarter page.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

HarvestGeek: 'Modern Farmer's Almanac' takes guesswork out of gardening
Michael Alt's HarvestGeek system brings wireless crop monitoring and automation to gardens both big and small.