We are bringing system to seeds!
Plant.io is an open source, plant-growing platform. With Plant.io, we aim to bring new forms of software-driven intelligence and interaction to the plant growth cycle, while using easy-to-source, off-the-shelf hardware to house, incubate, and monitor the germination of plants. Recent advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning, as well as data & analytics and the Internet of Things, are enabling new ways in which the digital, the physical, and the biological are converging across industries and all spheres of life.
Plant IO is a product of this convergence. It aims to do 3 things:
Plant IO Prototype System
“Our system connects 20 plants to a central machine-learning server, which, over time, monitors all of the plants’ growth in relation to several controllable, environmental factors. Once enough data is gathered, the machine learning system will anticipate the needs of each plant to promote as much growth as possible.”
Plant IO was built as a prototype system, so we designed it to be assembled and disassembled quickly in the event that changes needed to be made. We chose to use affordable and readily available materials, such as PVC piping, plastic buckets, and garden tubing and accessories, so that parts could be easily replaced or revised.
Because we wanted to individually control 20 plants, we started by narrowing down the variables we wanted to control. We decided to focus mainly on what we could control through the water that we gave each plant – watering frequency, nutrient level, and pH level – as factors, such as temperature and humidity, are harder to control and remain fairly constant in an indoor office setting. This helped us determine what kind of sensors we needed as well as what hydroponics system best suited our needs.
For us, the drip system for hydroponics was the most suitable since it allowed us to control the watering of every plant separately. The drip system utilizes a water reservoir from which water is pumped and sprinkled onto the plant, like in a normal sprinkler system, after which the water that drains from the pot is recycled back into the water reservoir. In our system, each plant sits on top of its own water reservoir bucket where a pump pumps water directly up to the plant which later drains water directly back into the water reservoir bucket. This is supported by a PVC pipe frame that holds the light for the plant and the peristaltic pumps that we use to feed nutrient and pH solutions into the water.
On the electronics side, the brains of our operation are Particle Photon boards and a central machine-learning server. The Particle Photon boards we used are essentially Arduino-based boards with built-in wireless connection. This allowed the boards to collect data from the pH and electrical conductivity sensors, which we used to measure nutrient level, and send that information through the Particle cloud service to our central machine-learning server. The server could then send control instructions back to the Photons to change the variables that we wanted to control. We kept the low level control and maintenance of the plants on the Photons while the central machine-learning server did the heavy lifting of data analysis. For growth information, the server pulled from a setup of webcams that we implemented to roughly measure the height of each plant through image processing. With this data, growth models could be built for each plant.
Enabling learning in the digital age
Plant IO is a platform for education & learning in our digital age. We’re taking science experiments to the next level by partnering with non-profit organizations and showing students how digital technology can be a tool for discovery and interacting with the world around us. Through Plant.io, students learn all about agriculture, the scientific method, computer programming, and graphic design by immersing themselves in the learning process – making tangible things with their hands and solving complex problems with code.
By providing access to software and hardware resources, we want to encourage students to grapple with fundamental questions and experiment with new possible answers.
Learning to Code
Through Plant.io, we are encouraging students to gain this new literacy by introducing them to a world written by software. Interacting with their plants and digital farms through 3D game-like user interfaces or through Microsoft HoloLens are fun yet powerful ways to show students what code makes possible.
Co-creation & Collaboration
But we can go further by partnering with nonprofit organizations to drive new programs and open up greater access to digital technology to help students foster their love of learning.
Open source thus enables the Plant.io platform to be leveraged beyond plant growth, beyond agriculture, to other sectors and industries – promoting new ways to drive digital innovation, data and knowledge, and collaboration.
“Talking to teachers, students and educational organizations, we transformed Plant IO to an educational kit. Plant IO guides students to build their own plant growing system, monitor the growth and cooperate with their classmates. Additionally, with game-like interface, students would fall in love with making, coding, and experimenting.”
Plant IO online collaborative game (prototype)
“According to our user research, students’ interest in the technology is actually far beyond what we were expecting. From the industry to education, we are designing a meaningful game for pupils and students to learn the technology, to participate with their classmates and to explore more and more.”
“From atoms to bits,
from organic seeds to kernels of code”
Today, digital technology is fundamentally transforming age-old industries like communications, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare – and even agriculture. Plant.io envisions new possibilities for agriculture as enabled by digital technology, beyond infrastructure and supply chain, by focusing on the biophysics and biometrics of the lifecycle of an individual plant.
Augmented reality (AR)
We used the Microsoft HoloLens to transport the plant growth cycle into a mixed physical/virtual reality. We wanted to see how augmented and mixed reality could be used to reimagine the digital experience for agriculture – and ultimately, for different industries.
Capable of monitoring the plants, give them water, adjust the pH levels, and help them grow.
Digital twins & gamification
The possibility of the digital farm being turned into an educational kit led us to create a fun, interactive 3D game interface to interact with, grow, and control your plant.
It also encouraged experimentation with augmented reality as the concept of the project is about the interaction of a physical system and its digital twin.
Plant IO Hololens Demo
“Our AR interface provides a more immersive experience by freeing the user from any physical limitations. It allows the user to recreate and control the experience while away in a different location, while also enriching the experience through visualizing data from the cloud.”
The growth of plants, the growth of industries
Our world is being fundamentally transformed by digital technology, across every industry and across every walk of life, through the rapid proliferation of intelligent systems, connected machines, and responsive products and services.
A Future Enabled by Automation and AI
Plant IO showcases the importance of automation and the possibilities AI opens up, even when we apply it to the most elementary problems.
A Future Realized by Innovation
In this way, we actively push the boundaries of digital innovation to create value for our customers, dissolving complex, intermediary layers, and bringing intelligence and empowerment directly to the end-points. Through projects like Plant.io, we have an unprecedented opportunity to renew businesses as well as to build entirely new ones.
A Future Ensured by Education
The environment, resources, and training we provide puts people in a position to flourish in an age of intelligent machines. Our work is driven by this unique culture of education, which enables us to take our mission of renewing existing IT and business landscapes and pushing the boundaries on new, game-changing innovation to the next level.