Giving plants a voice
New AMIC project helps gardening start-up company monitor plant health in great detail
Research has shown that it’s beneficial to talk to plants but wouldn’t it be nice if the plants could talk back?
A new applied research collaboration between Mohawk College and sustainable tech startup EarthOne will help give plants a “voice,” thanks to a connected plant monitor that will be designed and prototyped using the expertise of the college’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre. This innovative technology allows plants to tell us when they need more moisture, more light and when they are ready to be harvested.
Based in Hamilton, Ontario, and counting two Mohawk College graduates amongst its founders, EarthOne was established in 2019 to make sustainable living easy and straightforward for everyone.
The college’s applied researchers will work with EarthOne to build the next generation of its EarthOne plant monitor, a smart device that targets a new generation of home and hobby gardeners, known as “prosumers,” who want lab quality measurements and a consumer-level experience.
With EarthOne’s product, the DOOT plant monitor, they will be able to capture accurate and detailed measurements of soil pH, temperature, relative humidity levels, soil moisture, and light intensity. They can also forecast a date of harvest for produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and even some strains of cannabis, using a GDD measurement that can monitor the rate of transpiration, or water loss, in a plant.
The DOOT plant monitor will be the first plant monitor available on the consumer market that is modular, with the ability for consumers to add on new monitoring capabilities to connect with grow lights and automatic watering systems.
Part of the company’s mission is to make technology serve the environment, rather than the other way around, says EarthOne CEO and co-founder Sid Pereira.
“After our first version of the DOOT plant monitor sold out, it was important for us to design our next version so that it would exceed our customer’s expectations and include even more features to optimize yield and foliage,” says Pereira. “That’s why we turned to Mohawk to help us select and build the right sensor package and active components for our requirements.”
As EarthOne prepares for a larger production run, Mohawk’s applied research support will be key to helping the company upgrade its product design and anticipate any production hurdles. In its second iteration, the fully wireless device will feature a battery charge that will last up to 6 months, and will be durable enough not to corrode with regular exposure to soil, water, and sun.
“This applied research project will help EarthOne commercialize and bring a new Canadian agri-tech product to market,” says Sherif Abdou, General Manager of Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre. “We’re pleased that Mohawk’s technical expertise in advanced manufacturing - from designing a durable case using 3D printing to sensor development to the electrical architecture of a custom printed circuit board - will help accelerate the company’s progress towards this goal.”
The prototype, built by the Mohawk team of applied researchers and students, will be used to help the company launch its Kickstarter campaign in Winter 2022 with a limited production run of 500 pieces.
The project is supported in part by funding from the FedDev Ontario -supported Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a consortium of innovative Ontario colleges and universities, including Mohawk College.