Why overheading watering?

So I showed the intro video to the head of the farm I work at and she had an interesting comment: why overhead watering? Most farms I’ve seen don’t use it because the sun will burn the leaves if they get splashed from a morning watering. with the nozzle hanging over as much as it does with FarmBot it seems like there’s a high chance it’ll splash even when the pressure is fairly low. I don’t want to rag on the design because I’m sure it was done for a reason, but I was wondering why overhead watering was chosen over any other method.

Hey man,

every plant has different watering needs so watering from above allows you to somewhat accurately water each plant to its needs.

If you were to use a root based watering system it would not be able to individually water each plant which would lead to over watering of some plants.

hope that helps answer your question :smiley:

Sorry Luther sorry to say your answer is in fact incorrect

Root based watering depends on what it is.

Wicking and clay pot root based watering systems never over water plants. Both work on the soils natural wicking of water. So as plant takes up water natural processes replace the water. Wicking replicates what happens in soil with a high ground water level what all crop plants are in fact design to grow with.

There are some really expensive versions of wicking http://www.kisss.com.au/

The only risk with wicking is not over watering but under watering of items like rice and under watering that can lead to salt build up(this is normally fixed by once every 12 months to 5 year rainfall so 10 years no rain equals trouble).

Overhead, Driplines and old school under ground drip lines do all risk over watering and under watering.

Overhead watering in fact has many downside like increasing mould growth on particular plants.

Yes it true wicking based underground watering is not selective. So will water weeds as well as crop plants.

Sorry I am Australian so we have to live with the fact that we get dry times than could last 10 years on quite strict water restrictions. One of those is hand watering by watering can only at times. So farmbot overhead system would in fact break the rules when we are under water restrictions.

For research work were you are testing crop plants against different regional weather conditions the farmbots overhead watering makes sense. As a short cut to avoid having to remake the complete bed on a wicking design and attempting to get some level of effectiveness its also ok. The reality is something like a farmbot vs a well made wicking bed the difference is very steep. The wicking bed at worst %50 of the water overhead will for same result as long as you mulch the not cropped areas. Please do note carefully at worst if a wicking bed is using %50 of the water of overhead something is normally wrong it should be less normally this means you have a leak somewhere. Overhead can come even in water usage if wicking is losing too much from soil evaporation or have a leak. It basically in the point of impossible for overhead to win same with all the other techs not based around wicking with plants in soil.

The only thing that can best wicking in water effectiveness is something ponics like aquaponics/hydroponics… but this comes with a lot of costs and issues and design wrong will not perform. There are a lot of DPI studies in Australia on this as well as studies in Israel all coming to the same results. Australian DPI had made a machine for overhead watering a long time ago that watered based on when it saw green of plants this ended up being converted into a weed sprayer because it was found as not effective watering.

The watering side of farmbot I basically see as wrong. But when converting existing bed it is the simplest path. This comes purely down to effort people are going to put in.

As a crop development platform farmbot is right. This I think that is the problem. Some of farmbot design is more targeted at crop development lab work and the most effective crop production for water and power usage. So round peg square hole problem.

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I’m gonna be honest I didn’t even know what Wicking Bed are but seeing the links you have provided it does seem like a much better idea.

cheers :smiley:

Wicking beds are helpful, especially for greens, in shallow pots because of the limit of how high a liquid can be wicked.

However this obviously requires special beds, so in terms of farmbot all I was really thinking was like hooking one of those really simple pneumatic arms - ala http://www.instructables.com/id/Pneumatic-Muscles/ - hooked up to farmbots gas line with a water sprayer at the end. that way, it can just drop down to the base of the plant and spray without getting the on the leafy part of the plant, and thereby avoiding plant sunburn.

The way the watering system works now would be really good for spraying deer repellent - only organic, of course - because it could cover everything really evenly and generally /on/ the leafy part.


Do read the “The irrigator’s dilemma” the reality is no matter how you attempt surface irrigation you are in a location where effective watering is impossible without using sub soil technology. Does not matter how fancy you attempt to make the machine there is a unsolvable problem in the basic idea of surface irrigation. Wicking does have it issues but no where near as many.

To be correct they are two wicking bed types. Closed and Open. Closed are simple to manage and use soil depth to control moisture…

Open wicking is more interesting but harder in the management side and shallowly placed being normally only 10 cm under the surface of soil to the top of reserve but using wicking side ways. So each open wicking bed section might be 35-40 cm apart with plants in the middle being watered by it. The thing here is that it is a slower longer application of water than you can do with overhead watering. They do note the bug in its design where you cannot just keep on filling up the reserve as the soil can be wet enough. By just filling up the reserve in open wicking when the soil is wet enough just result the water wicking and siphoned away to no where useful.


Yes it common to have 3 different depths in closed.

  1. start plants where moisture comes all the way to surface ~20cm.
  2. grow plants out to full size ~30cm
  3. trees 50cm+

It is possible to use open wicking and closed wicking designs in combination. So a 50cm+ closed system under 10cm deep in open system resulting 35 cm rows with soil depth of 50cm+ perfectly watered to grow almost anything with correct management.

Massive soil depth(like potatoes demand) with wicking equals having to use open wicking system. So distance water can be wicked in open wicking designs is not a depth limitation but a row width limitation.

Closed wicking systems its next to impossible to over water a plant only reason it would happen is failure to check and clean overflow and failure to check water depth in reserve(blocked overflow equals water depth in reserve going too high) basically lack of maintenance once every 12 months and not paying attention to water level(if you are that lazy you deserve the problem). Only major issue in Closed wicking is under watering this is lack of due care thinking that well designed manual ones you only have to water about once every 2 weeks again and with a simple float valve set-up this can in fact be automated for the really lazy.

Open wicking systems applying too much water for design results in losing water somewhere not making the plants roots too wet. So again over-watering the root zone is impossible. Miss managing water and using too much water is possible in most cases not harmful to plants costly to you if you are paying for the water. Biggest risk again is under-watering.

Does not matter your watering need one or both of the wicking solutions services it at a level you cannot beat while using soil. Issue is wicking systems does come with a upfront cost in time and material and open wicking equals extra management overhead. So question how lazy are you.

I run a lot of closed with float value maintaining water level so I am quite up there in the lazy level on those. The closed wicking is planting(to start seedlings) and transplant(to grow out to full size) and harvesting with a once every 12 month maintenance check and clean on the float valve and overflow. Yet I do have a few open wicking and open/closed wicking hybrids what are more annoying to take care due to have to take reading to work out if or if not to apply water but not that bad over all no transplanting required in the open wicking systems but you pay for that in way more time doing monitoring.

Closed wicking a float valve is about all the automation it needs so you would call Closed wicking absolutely mature technology with almost no more possibility to improve it only make it more failure prone adding electronics .

There is room for open wicking and open/closed wicking hybrids to be improved by electronic automation at point it would basically mature as well with again very limited possibility to improve at all.

This is the thing wicking technology are so close to the max limits of watering efficiency it not funny.

Reason why something-ponics wins is they normally do not bring water into the top 2 cm ~ inch at all so avoiding evaporation loses wicking systems suffer from if not properly mulched also they don’t have as many organisms other than their plants consuming water. So want more water effective than using either open or closed wicking systems you have to give up soil.

Clay pot watering is a variation on open wicking.

Wicking is the apex of watering systems when growing plants in soil. Every other watering method not linking to wicking when growing plants in soil is some form of compromise costing water effectiveness hopefully for lower upfront costs but over Total Cost of Ownership might have been biggest mistake ever.

Farmbot over head watering design makes sense to a plant researcher emulating different environmental conditions does not make any sense when talking water efficiency.

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Crop development, orchard production, indoor plants, CRISPR/Pharmaceutical research, landscaping, commercial greenhouse, disaster relief, security and military applications are all feasible. If you’re using wicking beds in an extremely harsh climate; I see farmbot as planting, maturing and preplanting.

Simply use a conveyor belt so you have 3 seperate workstations, loading plants, the farmbots working in the middle, and unload at the end.

Looking at Farmbot as a replacement for conventional agriculture is #futurism

Stargarden. I have worked in citrus orchard production using wicking in those locations to service trees being grown…

Commercial greenhouse also use a different name for wicking that is sub-irrigation. That is where the pot and the water transport/storage are two different parts.

Crop development and CRISPR/Pharmaceutical research both make sense to use overhead to stress plants particular ways to see how they react. Fairly much everything else wicking of some form.

Wicking bed improvement in water usage does not require that harsh of a climate. Disaster relief if growing crops one of the things you are normally short on is clean usable water. Disaster relief the climate may not be harsh but water restrictions will be.

Simply use a conveyor belt so you have 3 seperate workstations, loading plants, the farmbots working in the middle, and unload at the end.
This would work in a Commercial greenhouse with sub-irrigation/wicking. Not exactly 3 separate workstations.
Benching: Palletized Rolling Benches
These huge set-ups are lot of them are sub-irrigation/wicking. Mostly because doing overhead irrigation when everything can move is a super big headache. Yes farmbox could be in one location and each of the rolling benches could be brought to it. The palletised system exists to make better use of floor space. Because once a bed gets too wide it basically impossible to work on as a human. So moving modules means less area in greenhouse lost to walkways.

I agree for planting, weed control and pre-planting farmbox xyz frame may be able to find it place in different places in current day conventional agriculture but is is part futurism because setting a test system of the existing is not cheep.

Please note I am not looking at farmbot as an replacement to conventional agriculture but there is a lot of things like wicking farmbot should be considering from conventional agriculture.

Yes I think so too homie. The expertise of alot of Farmbots community lies in computer vision, 3d printing, robotics, and mapping & data systems. Someone really needs to gather a comprehensive list of commercial greenhouse and agricultural techniques for cross reference. I’ve been a professional high dollar flower horticulturalist for 7 years. I haven’t worked commercial agriculture or commercial greenhouse settings. I have skills with high-density, high-yield, vertical or top-down, indoor cultivation practices including environmental control systems, HVAC, electrical and CO2 systems. That’s the extent of my professional growing skill.

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I remember thinking; WOW farmbot this is awesome! Then; oh shit all my watering methodologies involved highly oxygenated nutrient solution A LA DWC NFT Aeroponics or EbbnFlow and not one of these methods employs TOP DOWN watering!

But after some serious consideration I realized that Top-Down watering is a requisite for ALOT of Farmbots commercial applications. Yeah it’s being marketed for home and garden but that’s more or less because capitalism. Honestly Farmbot is still in it’s infancy. Do not for a second doubt what is possible, or how “smart” this idea is. There’s a reason it was featured in singularityhub.com <---- those are some of the smartest folks in the world.

But after some serious consideration I realized that Top-Down watering is a requisite for ALOT of Farmbots commercial applications.
To be truthful I looking from Australia commercial applications were we are highly worried about water usage due to how costly water can be.

Yes Top-Down watering might be a requisite in some commercial applications but they method of Top-Down watering used is not the Farmbot one. Top-Down watering here is not performed above the plant leaves where ever possible here if it performed at all. Top-Down watering is required as part of maintaining wicking systems as salt flushing every so often. Normally in open to elements top down flushing happens due to natural rainfall.

Farmbot current design of watering from above where it hits the leaves is what you only find in Australian research setups where you are emulating natural rain fall. Why most cases putting water on leaves just cause more problems than it worth. As a research platform its the right configuration to replicate rain fall to see if plant growing in natural conditions will suffer from fungal issues or the like…

Its very old watering design to put water on leaves. Put water on leaves normally also increases losses to evaporation.

You really do need to read what singularityhub said carefully. They were not 100 percent happy with current farmbot.

1.) The article you’re looking at is virtually ancient in todays context try this one too : http://singularityhub.com/2016/08/26/farmbot-will-grow-your-food-for-you-just-press-go/

2.) I commented on that article 9 monthes ago when I read it.

3.) If you go through and read my posts I’ve discussed almost everything contained within the older article. Including his main complaint about it which is it’s marketing strategy. Brad is a networking and computer science whiz. The fact that he refers to “tilling” instantly tells me that I have more knowledge about SmartFarming. However I still want to see him at Burning Man.

4.) In alot of Australia you will NEED to use top down watering. The idea here being that POOR farming practices, conservation and stewardship have created conditions of toxic salt buildup throughout the country. Doesn’t matter if you’re saving water when the methodology that you are “saving” water through is contributing to the problem. I recommend Geoff Lawton for learning about these things; he’s a world reknowned Australian permaculturalist. The secret to detoxifying and remediating the Australian landscape is mycology. https://goo.gl/EltK3l

In alot of Australia you will NEED to use top down watering. The idea here being that POOR farming practices, conservation and stewardship have created conditions of toxic salt buildup throughout the country. Doesn’t matter if you’re saving water when the methodology that you are “saving” water through is contributing to the problem. I recommend Geoff Lawton for learning about these things; he’s a world reknowned Australian permaculturalist. The secret to detoxifying and remediating the Australian landscape is mycology.

This is wrong. http://www.mdba.gov.au/managing-water/salinity what has triggered a lot of the Murray Darling basin problems is in fact top down watering where water is pumped out of river than watered. Result of over watering by topdown is water going into the high saltly water table and bring it up.

One of the researchers of the Australian Wicking gardening system is none other than Geoff Lawton you have just attempted to throw in my face. Also you have to watch what he found in his first project at the start of that video you quoted.

Yes he found something very interesting if you don’t over water get conditions exactly right salt ends up bound up in inert forms to plants inside fungi and the like. His early overseas Swale work is the base to system shows something super important.

In fact you are horribly wrong. Lot of Australia need to avoid top down water or any method that can over water like the plague. When some of the under ground water is just as salty as the dead sea you really do not want to raise that under under any condition. There is a reason why Geoff Lawton need to work over in some of these other countries instead of taking on Australia salt problem. The overseas problems are in fact simpler so he could experiment with watering above levels that can be performed safely in Australia due to those areas not having high salt water tables.

Australia has run dry land farming for a very long time next to top down irrigated farming. The horrible fact here is dry land farming does not suffer from salinity why that was the case was explained by that overseas work by Geoff Lawton with what he found in that video. Yet the top down irrigated farming has been suffering from the issue in Australia.

Yes it right that poor farming practices lead to salt build up. Also mycology does not like getting over wet. This is why a lot of work is going into wicking tech is to use as min possible water. Mycology to manage salt on average to manage salt require a fairly large area for a large area fungi. So a lot of farming practices have been kill in soil friendly fungi.

The reality is Australian government intentionally makes water expensive for farmers to force usage of more and more effective water application. To make irrigated farming as close to dry land farming as possible. Basically nature knew how to apply water and we have been idiots applying to much and moving water tables the wrong ways. Add in being idiots killing the mycology parts for salt control. Add in being idiots destroying the complete soil structure… You can get away with a few idiot mistakes and nature forgives you but do them all and nature takes a revenge.

Now the fact you need in soil fungi to control salt and fungi on leaves are bad for plants its critical that water is applied avoiding leaves. Also you need to watch that video carefully watering is done by dippers or swale what are both water without hitting leaves. Swales in Fraser island tells us the organic matter in the bottom of them to regulate the water outflow speed into the soil. So just digging a Swale without organic matter does not work right.

Sorry the need to use top down watering by man made ways is very limited. Top down watering is mostly want and cost avoidance.

I just don’t understand how you can watch the movies and have the information without coming to any of the same conclusions that the educators and authors presented.

To get the my mycology working right you are going to need to run fresh water (not salty derp) through the soil. End of discussion, if you wanna run around shooting kangaroos more power to you.

If you want to sit around arguing and contributing very little, thats fine too.