Introducing Class 1: ConnectedGarden
Words by Kristina Foster
Photos by Marie Wanders
People often say that speaking to your garden helps it grow, but ever wish that sometimes it could speak to you and tell you exactly how it’s doing? As ConnectedGarden’s technology sends your smart device notifications about your garden’s needs, the days of anxiously peering out of the window, wondering whether it has enough light or water, are over. It’s a new kind of dialogue between plants and people making it easier to create lush oases.
Tell us about your background and your relationship with plants and flowers?
I grew up in the town of Boskoop, the home of many of the plant nurseries in the Netherlands. I worked there during the holidays throughout the whole of secondary school. For me, being around plants was so normal that I couldn’t imagine living in places that were less green. But, of course there are a lot of places that aren’t!
What motivated you to start ConnectedGarden?
I’ve always had a green thumb. I saw so many people who had the space to grow things but didn’t know what to do with it. The result were gardens that weren’t as beautiful as they could be. I started to think, how can we make it easier for people to create nice green spaces? My answer was: by giving them gardening insights into what to do when and how.
How does the ConnectedGarden system do this?
We begin by putting our garden sensors in the ground. There are a lot of these kinds of sensors on the market at the moment but the problem with most of these are that is that they are only good for one particular place in the garden or one particular plant. It’s crucial to understand that the garden is an ecosystem, therefore, we place multiple sensors in strategic places that we call ‘zones’. These communicate with each other and our server.
What happens then?
We then combine the sensor data with the botanical data of the plants in that zone. For example, we know the amount of moisture that a certain plant should have, information which we cross-reference from the sensor data. We can then inform the consumer whether their plants are too dry or too wet. If a plant needs water we create a ‘task’ and if it really, really needs water we create an ‘alarm’. But we also have weather data that tells us about frost, storms and heavy rainfall. If we know a plant needs water but rain is expected that day, then we say, ‘don’t water it yet!’
What benefits will ConnectedGarden bring to the city?
People in cities have very busy lifestyles. Often they don’t really have the time to think about their garden, so we’re seeing a real trend of stone gardens in urban areas because people think that these are simpler solutions than growing plants. But there are a lot of disadvantages to this; the biggest is that due to climate change, it has started raining harder, so if we have a huge downpour and you have a stone garden, it’s going to flood because it can’t absorb the water. This is a very real urban problem that we often see on the news.
How did you feel when you were selected for the Incubation Programme?
In heaven! But seriously, just to be selected for the Let it Grow Incubation programme was a very big validation of our idea. We really started off discussing our idea with our feet up on the table, but now it’s getting more concrete. We’ve started talking to people from the industry, coming up with sketches, testing it in the market, so little by little we are building traction, it’s great!
It’s crucial to understand that the garden is an ecosystem
What are you going to try to focus on these next five months?
We are currently developing and finalising our first prototype. We’re going to use the next five months to get ConnectedGarden production ready but we also need to start working the market and raising awareness about our brand. Our mission is to tap into the urban green market and Let it Grow is helping us with that.