IoT to grow your own sustainable garden in a small space

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Vertical gardening in office spaces (Credit: www.kickstarter.com)
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Do you wish to have a garden in your home? Is it space that is stopping you? Here is a solution for you—Internet of Things (IoT)-based vertical gardening. This technology helps you utilise your walls to grow a vertical garden. It is basically a hydroponic garden that helps you grow plants without soil.

Plants require sunlight, water and nutrients from soil. In this case, soil is replaced with a nutrient-rich water solution to fulfill that requirement. The innovation lets you grow a garden anywhere, including supermarkets, apartment complexes, office spaces, restaurants and hospitals.

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This automated technology is powered by the IoT. The IoT is a network of physical objects—vehicles, devices, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, sensors and software. Network connectivity enables these objects to collect and exchange data. It monitors and keeps track of the environmental conditions in your garden and gives recommendations regarding plants that would do best in your garden based on soil composition.

There is a wide scope for growing plants in this manner, and you can select which plants you would like to grow. IoT-based vertical gardening gives high density yields and short growth cycles with reduced resource consumption of water, fertiliser and space. It saves labour costs, and offers higher consistency of crops. Watering cycles, auto-refill levels and pH levels are monitored and maintained using a microcontroller.

This method of growing plants without soil uses mineral-nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Plants are grown with only their roots dipped in the solution and supported by perlite or gravel. Nutrient-rich water is recirculated that provides high water consumption efficiency. The vertical design allows higher density of plants in a much smaller footprint. The microcontroller is connected to a Wi-Fi module that senses data through sensors and sends it over a mobile app for plant maintenance.

Innovative hydroponic gardens
Traditional farming uses soil and takes a longer time to decompose. This increases costs and makes the plants prone to diseases. IoT-based vertical gardening provides better results, especially in areas with unsuitable environment and space.

Types of hydrophonic systems (Credit: http://hydroponicsfarm.co.in)

This system has no adverse effect on the quality of crops, soil or environment. It allows the control of nutrient values via nutrient solutions. It improves the quality of crops with cost-effective implementations for small farmers in India. The setup helps save land from adverse effects of pesticides and other factors affecting the quality of soil.

There are many innovators who are trying to make vertical gardening easy and productive for you. Team Plug & Plant on Kickstarter creates vertical gardens that make cultivating a wall full of plants and herbs pretty simple.

Plug & Plant is a ready-to-grow soil-free environment with a wall-mounted modular system. Its tank is equipped with temperature, light, water and humidity sensors to gather feedback on what is happening in each plug and communicate via Bluetooth to smartphones.

Team Plug & Plant’s IoT Garden

The entire system is automated, except that you need to add water to the tank. It makes sure each seed receives the right amount of water, once the Android or iOS app knows what kind of seeds are planted. You only need to refill the tank once a month and choose from over 30 varieties of plugs based on how much light these require.

Gartenzwerg is another automated indoor gardening system that enables growing of vegetables, small fruits and herbs using a click of a button, from anywhere in the world. It knows exactly what the plants need and when, because it mimics perfect environmental conditions. Plants grow up to three times faster than any soil-based produce. This system, too, runs on soil-less, water-nutrient solutions.

Gartenzwerg indoor gardening system (Credit: https://gartenzwerg.me/)

The plants grow tasty and strong in any season, so you can have fresh strawberries even in winters. You can harvest as and when required and have long-lasting supplies. It lets you know if your plants are thirsty or need attention.

RainMachine takes care of your sprinkler system and helps save water. Using seven-day forecasts, the system uses real-time weather data to adjust the watering schedule. What RainMachine sees, you can see on your smartphone or tablet. It is a Bluetooth-controlled low energy sensor that precisely measures in real time. It measures the parameters for plant growth, including soil moisture, fertilizers, ambient temperature and light intensity. It alerts you on your smartphone if any action is required, via a free and dedicated app.

Parrot’s wireless sensor technology relies on a seamless connection with GreenIQ weather-based irrigation technology. It has more than 7000 plants in its database, which you can browse by type, shape, bloom, leaf colour, lifetime (annual, biennial, perennial) and season.

Parrot Flower Power works with GreenIQ technology (Credit: pinterest.com)

Edn Wall Garden is a soil-less vertical garden that waters itself (with nutrient-infused water) and monitors its own temperature with smart lighting. It lets you have up to 14 types of fresh herbs, vegetables and flowers growing easily in your abode. It automates tasks such as irrigation, lighting and dosing of nutrients.

Nano Garden’s built-in lighting promotes plant growth, while drawing water from the house water supply.

Capacloud smart vertical garden offers hassle-free sustainability, zero maintenance, low operation and maintenance costs.

Practical benefits
Every time a state in India faces severe drought, it causes adverse economic impact on the agricultural sector. If the above-mentioned techniques are implemented, farmers do not have to remain dependent on climatic changes, lack of water and other challenges faced due to fluctuating moisture conditions.

Such systems work best for areas unsuitable for conventional farming, such as arid, degraded or deserted regions. These are independent of weather and, hence, allow cultivation throughout the year.

Vertical gardens add to fast economic return, including optimal use of water and other resources. Thus, with increase in production, these give better standardisation for cultivation. These gardens make better use of land, thereby increasing total yield.
The best part about this technology is that the nutrients can be better controlled and monitored than the crops cultivated in soil. A disinfection system can also be installed to avoid infections from reused water.

In order to survive, we require air, food, water and living space. With growing population, we need to optimise land area, while preserving biodiversity. To meet up to the food demands of this growing population, it is necessary to implement vertical gardening. It gives optimum produce in a limited space.

Absorption in vertical gardening is usually proportional to concentration of nutrients in the solution near the roots. Productivity is influenced by environmental factors such as salinity, oxygenation, temperature, pH and conductivity of the nutrient solution, light intensity, photoperiod and air humidity. Due to the above characteristics—which enable an appreciable restriction in pesticide use and nutrient leaching—hydroponics is considered not only compatible but also strongly favourable and supportive to the application of integrated crop management.

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