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Talk To Your Plants For Dummy-Proof Gardening, Using A Sensor And An iPhone App

Using a Red Dot-award-winning Wi-Fi sensor and an iPhone app, amateur gardeners learn when and how to care for their plants.

Talk To Your Plants For Dummy-Proof Gardening, Using A Sensor And An iPhone App

I once killed a plant in less than 24 hours. Bought it on the hottest day of the year, took it home, left it out on my fire escape–plants need sun, right?–then woke the next day to a yellowed, shriveled wisp of a thing that looked like it’d been thrown in a deep fryer. As gardening ineptitude goes, that has to be a record.

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Koubachi, an app-based plant growing system by alumni of technical universities in Switzerland and Germany, is something approaching a godsend for dummies like me. Using a Wi-Fi sensor and an iPhone app, it lets plants talk to their owners–to share how much light they need, when they’re thirsty, and even how hot the water should be.

Here’s how it works: Choose your plant from the Koubachi’s “plant cyclopedia,” then insert the sensor, a Red Dot-award-winning gadget that resembles some kind of Jetsonian meat thermometer, into the plant’s soil. After an initial calibration period, the app draws up a care plan based on biologist-developed growing models that consider everything from the plant’s species and water cycling to the climate and growing season.

From there, it’s super easy: The sensor monitors soil moisture, ambient temperature, and light, then checks those metrics against your plant’s needs and alerts your iPhone (or web) app when it’s feeding or watering time. You don’t have to check your plants at all, just your phone (which you do every 2 minutes anyway).

The catch: The sensor costs 129 Swiss francs (about $140) online. That’s awfully steep, unless you’ve got a greenhouse full of ghost orchids or something.

Koubachi says on its website that a single sensor can be used to monitor multiple plants (once the app gathers enough information about your plant, it can basically operate on autopilot). You can also use the app by itself, for free; it includes the care plan and alerts, but doesn’t monitor growing conditions in real time, so it’s not quite as accurate. Still, it’s smart enough to know not to leave ivy on a fire escape in the middle of July.

[Images courtesy of Koubachi]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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