From Santiago to SoLA: More tales of two cities

Two weeks ago, we headed back to Santiago de Cuba for phase three of our Arduino automatic irrigation project. We held a full-day workshop to train permaculture farmers – promotores – how to code and program the Arduino system.  Home&Community was beyond fortunate to have the assistance of workshop trainer, Ruby Ríos, who rose to every challenge with calm and smarts.

Traveling to the island always requires a special kind of organizational skill. We had to manage bringing our materials in to support the training – Arduinos, breadboards, relays, moisture sensors, LCDs, LEDs, mini-solar panels and more wires and tiny things than anyone needs to travel with! Security screeners in both countries seemed unfazed by all our knickknacks.

CUBA 6_17 taller 4

Once we were in Santiago, the fun began. Thank goodness we’ve got great partners on site with the Centro Lavastida. They always provide a wonderful workshop space along with lunches and transportation.

The workshop was a great success! It was so exciting to see each participant, notebook in hand, diligently and intensely learning this new system.  There were so many great questions and hours of problem-solving.

In one particularly long session, we discovered it was only a matter of reversing the > symbol in a line of code. It certainly was a great lesson in the precision and flexibility of coding!

Over the next two days we visited four chosen sites of varying sizes, to determine where each irrigation system would be installed based upon water source, plant layout and sun exposure. When these systems are fully operational, each participant could see up to a 30% increase in yields.

It is so hard to leave our friends there each time, but we’re always buoyed by the prospect of returning to complete our work.

In city number two, just a few days after our return, we welcomed the volunteers from Google for our third-annual GoogleServe event. Each year the good folks at Google have come out to help us set up, build and plant at our farmsite in South Los Angeles. This year, over two days, they built two new beds, including one in the parkway, planted our herb garden and connected new drip irrigation to our existing automatic system.  Several plants, shall we say, blossomed (maybe exploded!?), while we were away in Cuba.  We’re happy to report no volunteers were lost in the tangle.

With the renovations of the workshop building and addition of another 130 square feet of outdoor growing and demonstration space, the SoLA site is almost ready to commence the fall workshop series. Gstead workspaceNot only will participants learn sustainable growing practices in our Permaculture 101 series, but there will also be opportunities for folks to create their own automatic irrigation systems using microprocessors like Arduino. We’re excited about the possibilities for other agtech projects, too (automatic aquaponics monitoring, anyone?).

More food, more farmers with economic opportunities, more folks with marketable tech skills (especially in agriculture), more sustainable practices. The SEED program (SoLA/Santiago Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development) is growing! All puns proudly intended.