Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Youth Summit at the Tom Tom Founders Festival. Although this event was geared towards younger individuals (high school) I was able to hear two young innovative speakers, Nikhil Goyal and Leilei Secor.
Nikhil is a 20-year-old activist who wanted to speak on the subject of educational malpractice. From his own experiences in high school in Long Island, he found that many people were not only bored and disengaged but also there was a mental health crisis. Along with this mental health crisis came the pressures of succeeding in school, sleep deprivation, and possibly prescription drugs. Nikhil wanted answers and reached out to many educational reformers and is still working on his solution to a better education system. He urged the youth to find something, to inform themselves, and to get involved.
Leilei is a second year from UVA and started her own Etsy company, Designed by Lei, the summer before her Junior year of high school. She was unable to find a job and decided to start making her own jewelry and to sell it online. She began looking for trending ideas and different things that she could easily change to what she believed was better and then sold them at a competitive price. By doing so, Leilei was able to purchase her own car and raised over $100K dollars in revenue last year. Her message was that many things can be taught, but passion cannot be and she urged the youth to find something they were passionate about and to pursue it.
Both Nikhil and Leilei provided great information on how they became such successful entrepreneurs at a young age and their talks were very useful. I enjoyed the event and took many things away from it.
As we head into the third week of the existence of our hydroponics system let’s discuss week two results as well as the expectations for week 3. The kale in our hydroponics system looked healthy and we added water and nutrients to maintain the levels. After walking HackCville on Tuesday however, I was worried that the plants might be in too cold of an environment.
Conducting more research, I found that Kale (when being grown hydroponically) produces the best results in 75 to 85 degrees weather. This does not mean our kale will not survive (as it can grow in temperatures as low as 40 degrees), but I do wonder if it will stunt the growth as well as the overall nutrients of the plant.
Additionally, we have not been able to check the pH levels of our reservoir. Kale needs between a 5.5 and 6.5 pH level in order to grow healthily. Low levels may result in the plant slowly dying. More so, sources say that the Kale can take up to 4 months to fully grow, however since we did not use seeds, I believe we will be able to harvest our plants within the next two weeks (baby kale can be harvested 20-30 days after being places in a hydroponics system).
It will be interesting to see whether or not our Kale can grow successfully and become harvestable before classes end. I believe we will be successful in harvesting, however I hope we can monitor our pH level in the upcoming two weeks. More so, I believe it is not crucial for our kale to grown in 75 to 85 degrees whether because if it can grow in worse than suggested conditions and remain nutrition then that could broaden the scope of our customer base and target areas.
This is the first week mark of our wick hydroponics system. The plants are doing well, still standing up-right. However, to me the plants seem to be a little more shriveled and the sand a bit dryer. In analyzing our own system, I had the chance to take a look at the other two class design as well.
The first design is similar to a wick system. Imagine a large 5 gallon bucket that has three upside down 2 liter water bottles, that are cut open, floating in the nutrients filled water. These bottles are filled with soil and have plants sitting within them. The plants seem to be healthy and absorbing nutrients. I really like this design because it seems very cost effective. I believe anybody has the ability to make it because all items have substitutes.
The second design has a water reservoir above the plants that are sitting in a rectangular pot similar to our design. The team took a daring approach and took the plants out of their natural soil to see how the plants would uphold in only a sand base. I was skeptical of their approach at first, but today the plants seem to be gaining more life.
I believe this Tuesday is going to be the most crucial. I think we will be able to tell in which direction our project is headed. Although the sand seemed damp, I am concerned about the amount of water and nutrient our plants are getting from the wick system.
Frayed Cotton: 1) 5.0 inches 2) 5.5 inches
Straight Cotton: 1) 5.25 2) 5.5
Braided Cotton: 1) 6.0 2) 5.5
This week we finished the development and construction of our hydroponics system. As mentioned before we used three different wicks to see which one would be the most efficient and produce the greatest results. We used two plants per wick (6 total). This post will discuss the construction of the system.
In my last post, I mentioned my skepticism of the use of plastic in separating the plants, however it was very successful. We used duct tape to secure the plastic. When we added sand to the respective “pots” and the plastic held strongly. We then filled the water reservoir and had each wick touching or submerged in the water. We used different lengths to see if the depth of the wick correlated with a better growth of the plants. Another aspect that was added was an electric pump, to provide a small current within the reservoir to cause the nutrients to cycle throughout. Although we intended to use a manual pump, the automatic pump will work well for our test and simulation. Below is a picture of our final design:
I am very curious to see if there are any of our plants that die due to our different testing methods. I am expecting one to be better than the others, however I am not sure which wick will produce the best results. Next class period we will be able to make our first evaluations of the system as well as give more accurate predictions for our results.
Today, we received our supplies for our wick hydroponics system. We are using Kale as the main vegetable which we decided to grow using three different materials as a wick. Due to constraints, the design of our hydroponics system changed, however the functionality and operations did not.
The three types of wicks we are using are, braided and unbraided cloth, and a braided shirt. They are all going in a rectangular pot which will sit on top of the water reservoir. We had to cut the reservoir in order for our plant container to fit properly. This was to ensure that our wicks were not too long so our plants could obtain enough nutrients.
One thing I am skeptical about is how we are going to separate our wicks. The team is planning on using plastic wrap however I feel that the water and nutrients will leak through. This would lead us to have untrue statistics because one wick could do better than the other, however if we do not separate the plants properly then we will not truly know which wick works the best. I am going to research the subject in hopes of finding a more optimal solution by Thursday.
I am excited to see the progress that we make and am hoping that our system becomes successful.
Las week we discussed the practicality of our planned hydroponic system design as well as constructed a business model canvas to better understand the business approaches we are going to need to take in order to create a sustainable product that can reach many refugee camps.
Initially our team decided that we would attempt to grow lettuce because of its ability to grow in sunlight or shade making it easier to grow in different climates. However, we concluded that the main goal was to help increase the nutritional resources in refugee camps instead of just providing them with something to grow and eat. We decided that Kale was the best option, because of its high nutritional value (a single serving meets your vitamin A and B needs for a day). It provides all sorts of vitamins and mineral that contribute to a better health. More so, Kale is nutrient dense so it can be consumed in low quantities, meaning that it would yield a greater impact on the number of people that can be fed.
In constructing our business model canvas. The main thing we focused on was our value proposition. We noted that through our product, refugee camps would not only be able to grow food, but the maintenance of the system would provide them with an activity. Additionally, the growth of food will help develop a market and hopefully provide a sustainable food growing system.
In the upcoming week we plan on finding the parts and pieces to produce a prototype. This will help us understanding what changes we need to make and the practicality of our product.
This week we met in our groups to discuss the various hydroponics systems that we could implement in different refugee camps in third world countries. Things we took into consideration were the costs of building the system, its use in various climates, and the types of plants that would be most useful in these climates.
We came to the conclusion that a hydroponic wick system would work the best because it is cheap and costs effective. This is due to the fact that a wick system does not use any electricity and does not require a pump. We considered the fact that many of the refugee camps we will need to help will have limited knowledge about the systems, so the less complex they are the easier they will be to manage and use. The design of our wick system will be very important since a downside is the amount of nutrients they can provide. However, we chose lettuce as our crop of choice which is one of the easiest plant to grow and it takes up minimal space. It grows faster in sunlight, however it is able to grow in the shade as well.
For the upcoming week, we plan to develop a design of the wick system we are going to implement as well as a list of our foreseen expenditures and costs. I am excited to learn more about the wick system and how we can design it to be as cost effective as possible.