Lettuce Turnip the Beet

Salad Days - Produce Cultivation Machine


Member profile details

Membership level
2016-2017 Team
Project Thumbnail Image
Team Name
Lettuce Turnip the Beet
Project Title
Salad Days - Produce Cultivation Machine
Design Challenge
Because many people do not grow their own food, industrial farming (and its negative impact on the environment) has flourished. We aim to combat this, creating a produce cultivation machine, utilizing BioBlend and being as low user input as possible.
Design Summary
Status as of April 30 - Device is complete and functional! We will be implementing in Sweden, leaving on May 28.

We are Lettuce Turnip the Beet, a team of senior mechanical engineering design students at Rice University that has built a prototype of a produce cultivation machine.

Our first prototype consisted of a wooden frame, designed in the shape of a right triangle, on which three large PVC pipes were attached. We used two submersible pumps to circulate water through the pipes, which have holes cut in them to hold baskets for the plants. The water flows over the roots of the plants, carrying nutrients to them before flowing back to the reservoir and repeating the cycle. This prototype has been moved outside into a cage adjacent to the OEDK where it will remain for the rest of the cycle.

Using the knowledge gained from our first prototype, we built a second, more robust prototype. It is a completely modularized system that can be customized to fit many different spaces. Currently, the device has two support posts of four modules each, that holds six square pipes. The system is fully operational and has produced at least 20 salads to this point. We have optimized the device such that it is easier to use and requires minimal time commitment, completing two of our design specifications. Other specifications that we have addressed include noise level, device size, light output, and plant growth.

Additionally, to continue the work of a senior design team last year (com(post)-haste), we are using many different organic substitutes for the compost produced by their BioBlend system that is currently implemented at Chalmers University. Our project will allow the students there to grow produce in their apartments cheaply and easily while maximizing sustainability. We will install the finished device in the HSB Living Lab. Over the next year, Chalmers will conduct additional testing on the device before replicating and distributing the device to interested tenants. Our final design will address the following problems regarding produce cultivation:
- Difficult, if not impossible, in urban areas (Requires lots of space, usually lots of open land with good soil, natural lighting)
- Large time commitment, lots of physical labor (Watering, soil tilling, fertilizing, etc)
- Expensive to maintain (Fertilizers, pesticides, excessive water usage)
- Requires extensive knowledge about produce (Growth patterns, nutritional facts)

We will design and prototype the device within a budget of $2,500. Some physical and time constraints we must consider during the design process are:
- Must fit in an apartment with 13 square meters of floor space and a volume of 48 cubic meters
- Should be simple and easy for the user to learn how to use
- Must utilize the BioBlend system as a source for compost
- Must be economically viable
- Finish project by May 2017

Last updated: 4/30/2017
Date Updated
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Carolyn and Harrell Huff
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Matthew Elliott
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • MECH

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
Winner: Best Environment and Sustainability Design Project - 2017 Engineering Design Showcase

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK

Email: oedk@rice.edu

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