Breaking Ground

Breaking Ground: How Gardeners Are Harnessing the IoT

By DeVry University

No green thumb? No problem! Gardening may be a stress reliever for some people, but it can also be very stressful — especially if your carefully tended plants wither away and die or fail to grow at all. The internet of things (IoT) is leaving no dirt untilled as it transforms gardening into an easier, more bountiful hobby. As interconnectivity continues growing, expect to see increased convenience and better blooms with the help of some useful technological assistants.

IoT-Powered Irrigation Takes the Guesswork Out of Watering

Did you know that incorrect watering is the single biggest cause of plant death? Thanks to the IoT, you can take the guesswork out of watering your garden while maximizing efficiency. Technological advancements in gardening include sensor-powered monitors and irrigation methods like in-ground sprinkler controllers that read soil moisture levels and analyze local weather patterns to automatically water plants with exactly the right amount of water as needed.

For example, a group of seniors at DeVry University recently completed their capstone project, the Watering Cricket. "Inspiration started as an idea for a way to keep track of whether your plants are dying or too dry," says Peter Charuza. "It gives us feedback," Charuza continues, "We've even built in an analysis engine that basically gives us real solutions that help fix problems." This nifty innovation gives gardeners valuable information about pH levels, soil salts, moisture levels and temperatures both on a daily basis and over a span of time to help them figure out exactly what amendments the soil needs to support healthy plant growth. 

Tech Keeps Your Plants Healthy (and You Too!)

Maintaining a healthy garden can be challenging, but the IoT helps make some of the more-difficult elements nearly seamless. For example, digital pots offer real-time updates on your plants' progress. These technology-driven gardening gadgets take the guesswork out of growing plants by calculating all the variables — including soil conditions, humidity, temperature and moisture levels —for a plant's ideal health and growth. They can also give you alerts on an integrated display or relay information to your smartphone.

And, advanced technology has the power to do more than just monitor plant health — some devices can also help keep you safe and healthy too. Violet Plus is a great example of tech that protects gardeners from too much sun exposure. Available as an app for your phone and as a wearable, Violet Plus monitors your time in the sun to minimize painful burns. It also offers personalized advice based on sun intensity and local UV data, and it even lets you know how much vitamin D you get every day. 

Let Your Phone Help Your Garden Grow

Plan your garden, program your sprinklers and envision the potential of your landscaping efforts all with a few taps on your mobile device. Gardening apps run the gamut from mobile gardening magazines for in-depth advice and information to connected apps that give you more control over your plants. Popular gardening apps include:

  • Leafsnap: Have you ever seen a plant that you love, but you have no idea what it is? This app lets you take pictures of a leaf to identity the plant in moments.
  • iScape: Save time on your landscaping and garden planning with this app that lets you create a digital model of your space and virtually add your favorite plants to see how everything will look and feel before you do any digging.
  • Perennial Match: Not all plants play nicely. Plan your garden pairings based on growing conditions and height preferences to maximize growth and soil condition.

The Future of Indoor Gardening

Cultivate an indoor garden with blooms and edibles that are healthier than ever using advanced technology. Technological advancements that make indoor gardening easier include:

  • Vertical Green, a modular system of smart vertical planters made of biodegradable polyurethane that fit neatly into the wall-mounted system. Each planter connects to the system's 1.2-gallon water tank and a sensor network that automatically waters each planter with the perfect amount for each specific plant.
  • Grove Labs' Indoor hydroponic systems feature a box for growing plants and a fish aquarium, which is the heart of the system. Fish waste creates fertilizer for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish. Integrated sensors and LED lights allow users to monitor humidity, water levels and temperature in addition to controlling the lighting schedule to optimize plant growth.
  • Click & Grow uses NASA-inspired Smart Soil that contains nutrients and pockets of oxygen designed for release when the unit's integrated sensors reveal the plants' needs. It also has an adjustable LED lamp so you can grow plants even without a window.

Technology not only has the potential to help your plants grow more efficiently, but it also offers a garden of new jobs. Students — including those who participated in the Watering Cricket project — who want to work in the field are preparing for the future with innovative, hands-on learning experiences.

As students learn to use merge technology with industries that aren't traditionally tech-driven, the job market continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow faster than average through 2024. For professionals interested in developing new technologies, managing existing tech or working in IT security, now is an ideal time to learn new skills or sharpen your existing skills to prepare to dig in to the future of technology.

Brought to you by DeVry University where we put technology at the core of our business, tech and healthcare education to help prepare our students to solve the problems of tomorrow.

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