An innovative sensor built by Parth Shah, an associate professor at Anant National University in Gujarat, may be the solution urban gardeners need to water their plants when they are away
A common problem that many urban gardeners often express on social media is the one about being unable to water plants whilst on a vacation. While neighbours or friends may not always offer a helping hand, there are many hacks, from using drips to other makeshift methods, to ensure that plants do not suffer when you’re on vacation.
However, a Gujarat-based associate professor, Parth Shah, has come up with a Soil-Moisture and Temperature Humidity Sensor that monitors vital parameters in the soil and automatically irrigates the plants.
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Speaking with The Better India, Parth says the concept came to him after he realised the unavailability of healthy vegetables in the market that prompts urban dwellers to opt for terrace gardening and growing vegetables organically.
“We often struggle to find fresh, chemical-free vegetables in the market, and the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged urban dwellers to grow their food using organic methods,” he says.
Parth adds that urban farmers require to water their plants for efficient maintenance and desired produce.
“On many occasions, improper watering or failing to estimate the moisture may affect the plant health and even wastewater, if provided in excess. So, like commercial farming, it would be helpful to have technological assistance for the same,” he says.
The 30-year-old worked on the same concept to build a system that monitors vital parameters in an urban garden setup.
Climate control for a terrace garden
“I used Internet of Technologies (IoT) and a set of sensors to assess the moisture content, temperature and other parameters in the soil. The sensor also analyses temperature and humidity and sends data to the system, which reflects the information in numbers, thus allowing it to monitor the health of the plants and function as a climate control system,” he explains.
Parth says the sensor is fitted in the soil and is connected to a control board with Microcontroller Unit (MCU). “I created an Android app that allows the user to read data on a smartphone and also on an LCD screen. The data helps to make necessary interventions,” he says.
He adds, “The soil moisture levels should ideally range between 10 per cent and 45 per cent. However, if the moisture levels decrease below 10 per cent, the sensors send an alert on the smartphone.”
Moreover, the app can trigger a signal to switch on the water pump automatically to irrigate the plants and restore the moisture to optimum levels.”
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Parth says that one sensor can cover a terrace or balcony garden and monitor moisture levels up to 3 metres deep. “However, in the case of potted plants, each of them will require a separate sensor. This will add the cost nominally,” he adds.
“The system allows monitoring multiple greenhouses with real-time data. It enables better understanding and improved production rates of plants and food,” Parth says.
Parth says that it took him 20 days and an investment of Rs 1,100 to make the device. He is now working to explore commercial aspects of the same.
“The system can become a saviour for people living busy lives. It can assist in maintaining a garden without people having concerns about staying away during a vacation or a work trip,” he concludes.
Edited by Yoshita Rao