This project was inspired when Johannes Ernst visited Bruce Gee’s booth at Makerfaire Bay Area 2019, was suitably impressed and then discovered Bruce’s website at waterworks-hydro.com. On his website, Bruce not only publicly documented what he showed at Maker Faire, but several other hydroponics systems he created before, encouraging everybody to try hydroponics in their backyards, too.
Johannes had already decided that he wanted to learn more about ways of local, decentralized, non-industrialized food production. Backyard hydroponics seemed like a great thing to do try, and because Bruce had documented his setup so well, setting up a similar system seemed quite straightford. Besides, Johannes likes lettuce, which is the easiest crop to grow hydroponically! So he went and (mostly) copied Bruce’s vertical system. Here is his initial show-and-tell blog post.
But Johannes made a few changes and wanted to document those, too, for the benefit of the next person building a similar system. Hey, that person would have an even easier time setting up their system, because they would be able to benefit from the experience of all of those who built earlier versions.
Now where have we heard that kind of thing before? Oh, yes. In software: open-source development. In open-source software development, I write some code until it does what I want it to do, and publish it. Then you can come along, and improve it, until it additionally does what you want it to do. Voila! Now both of us got twice the features than each of us had to develop ourselves. If lots of people contribute, we gain lots of value while needing only to do a small part of the total work. Sounds like a great model.
Project Springtime is an attempt to bring this model of collaboration to decentralized, local food production:
We document the system we built, how we built it, and how we operate it on a day-to-day basis. It’s all on this website, which is published straight from a Gitlab repository, just like many open-source (software) projects do.
Over time as we (and others) learn what works and what does not and how to do even better, we log bugs, and request new features. We use Gitlab’s issue tracking system, also just like in software.
We encourage you to build this system, too, either as-is or with whatever modifications you think would improve it. We would love to receive your merge requests (aka pull requests) if you think your changes are applicable to others. Of course, we also would love to receive your documentation improvements.
Will it work? It worked once, so far, between Bruce and Johannes, even without git. Beyond that, we have no idea. But let’s try! Everybody benefits if it becomes much simpler to set up some local food production in our back yards, without having to do much research or becoming an expert in hydroponics or wood working – because other people’s experience is effectively reused.
Note about license
As this is not a software project, it appears Creative Commons licenses are more appropriate than “code” licenses, so that’s what we chose. It’s intended for you and me, who build this kind of thing in our backyards. Should you intend to commercialize it, we’d ask you to contribute back.