Home gardens have been a staple in American culture for centuries, providing families fresh fruits and vegetables while adding beauty and value to a home. However, traditional methods of home gardening can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. In recent years, smart gardening technologies have emerged as a solution for these challenges. It has enabled automating several gardening tasks, such as watering, fertilizing, and even mowing the lawn.
Smart gardening is a term that refers to the use of automated technologies to simplify the process of growing plants. This includes using sensors, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help homemakers and gardeners care for their lawns and plants more efficiently.
Thanks to automation, the global market for Smart Gardening products is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. According to a report from Polaris Market Research, the global smart indoor gardening system market size is expected to reach USD 3.22 Billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.2%, from USD 2.06 billion in 2021. This growth is driven by several factors, including the increasing popularity of home gardening, the growing acceptance of automation technologies, and the rising availability of innovative gardening products.
Smart Gardens - Types and Selection:
Several smart gardening solutions are available on the market, each with its own set of features and advantages. Depending on the type of crop to be cultivated, space availability, farming expertise, time and effort availability, one can choose between simpler and sophisticated intelligent gardening systems, as given below:
- Indoor Smart Gardens: Indoor smart gardens are designed for use in homes and apartments. These systems typically use LED lighting and hydroponic growing methods to allow plants to be grown indoors without needing direct sunlight.
- Outdoor Smart Gardens: Outdoor smart gardens are designed for use in yards and patios. These systems typically use traditional gardening methods, such as soil-based growing, but with the addition of automation and smart features.
- Packaged Smart Gardens: These are complete gardening systems that include everything needed to start, such as the growing unit, planting pots, soil, and seedlings. These are a great option for beginners who want to start gardening but don’t have the time or knowledge to set up a traditional garden.
- Portable Smart Gardens: These are small, self-contained gardening systems that can be moved around as needed. These systems are typically used on balconies, patios, or other small outdoor spaces. Portable smart gardens are an excellent option for those who want the flexibility to move their garden as needed or those with limited space.
- Smart Greenhouses: Smart greenhouses are large, automated gardening systems designed for use in commercial settings, such as farms or nurseries. These systems typically use advanced growing methods, such as hydroponics, and include features such as climate control and automatic watering. Smart greenhouses are a great option for those who want to grow large quantities of plants or for those who need to control the growing environment.
- Smart Vertical Gardens: Smart vertical gardens are gardening systems that use vertically-oriented planters to grow plants. These systems are typically designed for small spaces like apartments or offices. Smart vertical gardens are an excellent option for those who want to save space or for those who want to grow plants in a more aesthetically-pleasing way.
- Smart Window Gardens: Smart window gardens are small gardening systems that are designed to be placed on windowsills. These systems typically use hydroponic growing methods and include LED lighting to allow plants to grow without needing direct sunlight. Smart window gardens are appropriate for those who want to grow plants indoors but don’t have the space for a traditional indoor garden.
Elements of a Smart Garden and Understanding the Automation Framework:
A typical Automated or IoT-based Garden uses the six-layer framework; each layer is made up of components that lead to a stepwise architecture to meet the demands of a complete automated agricultural solution. The framework includes the Physical layer (Hardware facilities), Network-layer (Internet and communication), Middleware layer (IoT gateways), Service layer (Cloud products), Analytics layer (Big data, predictive analysis, etc.), and User experience layer (yield and farmer experience).
- Physical layer (Hardware layer): Consists of sensors, valves, solenoids, actuators, microcontrollers, gateways, and other hardware and devices installed at the crop level. The prime objective of this layer is to move the processed root-level data up to higher layers.
- Network layer: Consists of internet and communication technologies (such as LoRa Wi-Fi, Cellular technologies such as LTE, CDMA, and GSM) to facilitate the data from hardware devices to the Cloud or to connected devices.
- Middleware layer handles device management, context awareness, interoperation, platform portability, and security functions. HYDRA, UBIWARE, UBIROAD, and SMEPP are excellent at providing context-aware features; on the other hand, SOCRADES, GSN, SIRENA, and others are efficient in implementing security and user privacy within their architecture.
- Service Layer: Cloud-based service layer is critical for Smart Gardens and provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to agricultural problems. Sensing, actuating, and disease identification functions are determined with sensor data, equipment recognition, crop illness knowledge storage, and statistical sorting.
- Analytics Layer: The layer uses data analytic models to predict climatic changes, analyze the crop yield, forecast profits and ROIs, and detect crop diseases, weeds, and pests. In addition to smart gardeners, multi-culture farmers use the analytics layer to understand various agro-cultures such as vermiculture, horticulture, floriculture, etc.
- User experience layer: Post yield and value-added services are provided by this layer, and consist of facilities and resources like cold storage behaviors, connecting with farmers, dairy services, and biomass extraction tools.
How to Build or Convert your outdoor garden into a Smart Garden:
Building a smart garden is easier than it appears. It simply demands a basic grasp of the tools required and the appropriate hardware and software components to choose from based on your agriculture goals. The following step-by-step procedure guides you through how to automate your Garden (or build a Smart Garden) with DIY instructions. However, it is suggested that you seek expert help on certain aspects specific to your garden.
Step 1 - Garden Blueprint: Calculate the area available, the number of plants, water routes, valves required, power, and water sources.
Step 2 - Sensors Packages: For an integrated or packaged Smart Garden solution, commercially available sensor packages are available. These are often bundled with Cloud and Hardware services. Following are a few installation-ready Smart Garden sensor systems:
- Bitponics (Automated hydroponics): Provides sensor device, back-end web support, and a library of custom plant growth options. The device consists of Water/Air sensors, temperature, humidity, and pH and Brightness measuring sensors. User can select (1) the number of hours of daylight required for the plant, (2) the optimal pH range required, and (3) the quantity of water required and accordingly operates the pump.
- Edyn (Outdoor Garden and Irrigation): This solar-powered monitoring system consists of Temperature, Soil Moisture, Soil Humidity, Light, and acidity sensors and provides users recommendations on preventive measures for better crop growth. The self-learning system identifies the optimal conditions and operates water valves to adjust pH and moisture levels and maintain healthy plant growth.
Similar to the above-mentioned packaged sensor systems, there are other commercial options such as Botaniccalls (Indoor or Outdoor Garden applications), PlantLink (Indoor or Outdoor Irrigation applications), and Open Garden (Indoor or Outdoor Garden, Irrigation, and Aquaponics applications). These are ready-to-deploy systems and provide a hassle-free installation experience.
Note: Upcoming steps (Step-3 to Step-6) are DIY Alternatives to the pre-built systems in Step 2.
Step 3 - Sensor(s) Selection: Instead of opting for a readily available sensor package, if a user has limited or specific requirements - such as managing the electrically controlled water valve or providing recommendations on plant health, or monitoring additional parameters (than those supplied with packaged services), users can choose standalone sensors required only for those functions. Following sensors are commonly used for Indoor/Outdoor Smart garden applications:
- Temperature (RTD): To monitor/control the plant environment temperature.
- Ambient Light (Brightness sensor): Monitor/control sunlight or LED lightning for optimal photosynthesis.
- Soil Moisture: To monitor the soil moisture levels and regulate water flow to required levels.
- Soil pH: These acid sensors provide soil quality and recommendations for fertilizer required for healthy growth.
- Air Humidity: Provides the data on weather humidity and controls the water flow.
- CO2 Sensor: This sensor detects the presence of greenhouse emissions and regulates the ventilation required.
Users can select one or more sensor combinations (from those mentioned above), depending on the application and parameters required to monitor.
Step 4 - Hardware platforms: Several IoT Supported hardware platforms are commercially available. Based on their key specifications (Processor, GPU, Operating Voltage, Clock speed, Bus Width, System and Flash memory, Support for various Wireless communication protocols, Input/Output connectivity protocols, and Developing codes and programming language) users can select the hardware. Popular options for hardware platforms for Indoor or Outdoor agriculture include Arduino (Uno, Yun, and Nano), Intel (Galileo, Edison), Beagle Bone, and Raspberry Pi (3, B+ or Zero) platforms.
Step 5 - Communication from Hardware to Cloud: Selection of a proper communication channel (for data transfer) is critical for an Automation system, and thus Users have to be cautious during selection. Communication defines the data transfer formats, encryptions, flow and sequence controls, and transmission of lost data packages. Popular communication protocols include WiFi, WiMax, LoRa, LR-WPAN, Mobile networks (2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G), and Bluetooth. Users can select one amongst the above protocols based on Frequency of data transmission, Rate of transfer, Range of transfer, Power consumption, and Operating Costs.
Step 6 -Cloud platforms: Post transfer of data from the field level sensors, data analysis, interpretation, monitoring, and regulating steps are carried out using the Cloud. Though multiple cloud platforms are available, essential parameters such as Real-Time data capture, Data visualization formats, Type of Cloud service, Cost of development and notifications, and Data analysis models should be reviewed before choosing the right cloud platform for the application.
Step 7 - Power Supply: Depending on the operating power of each sensor and hardware, power convertors (SMPS) or battery sources can be used to operate the sensors. Preferably, sensors with uniform power requirements can be chosen (12 V DC or 24 V DC).
Step 8 - Valves and Installation of Water lines: Normally closed solenoid valves are the standard and most preferable option to regulate water flow to each plant in a Smart Garden system. Solenoid Valves are selected based on the type, MOC, discharge flow rate, and the number of control (2 or 3-way control) options.
Following the steps mentioned above, users can develop and implement an automated Indoor or Outdoor agriculture system that monitors and regulates the environment for each plant accordingly. No matter what your gardening goals are, there is a smart gardening tool that can help you achieve them. You can easily turn your home garden into a thriving oasis with the right tool.
IoT and Smart Garden - Benefits and Range of Application for Large Home Gardens:
The main motives for developing a Smart Garden are to achieve higher yields with less water and fertilizer consumption, as well as creating as much of an automated and hands-off process as possible. The solution can be applied in various indoor and outdoor applications to reduce labor costs and save production time. Following are the several benefits and application areas of IoT Based agriculture:
- Real-time monitoring of crops: By installing various sensors in the field, farmers can constantly monitor the status of their crops and soil. This information can help them make timely irrigation, fertilization, and pest control decisions.
- Irrigation Management System: With automated sensors that measure soil moisture levels, farmers can simplify the irrigation process. This saves water and ensures that crops get the right amount of water at the right time.
- Pest and disease control (and minimizing the use of pesticides): By constantly monitoring the crops, farmers can identify pest infestations early and take corrective action. This helps in minimizing the use of pesticides, which is not only good for the environment but also for the health of the people who consume these crops.
- Reduced labor costs: IoT-based systems can automate various tasks such as irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. This reduces the need for manual labor and operating costs.
- Efficient supply chain management: IoT-based systems help manage large farms more efficiently by providing real-time information about various aspects of farming. This allows farmers to make proactive decisions that increase efficiency and productivity.
- Reduced wastage (water and crop waste): By constantly monitoring the conditions of the crops, farmers can reduce wastage due to excess watering or incorrect irrigation, over-fertilization, and pest infestations.
- Increased yield, transparency, and customer satisfaction: IoT-based systems generate a lot of data that can be used to track the progress of farming operations. This helps increase the farm produce, quality, transparency, and accountability, ultimately leading to better customer satisfaction which is essential for any business.
Case studies - Automation and IoT for Home Gardens:
Following are a few success stories demonstrating the practical application of IoT to develop Smart Gardening products:
- Botanicalls: Botanicalls opened a new messaging channel between plants and people using the IoT platform. The project gives plants that would otherwise be overlooked the ability to contact and text individuals for assistance. Users are connected via Twitter status updates as a result of this project. When the plant needs water, it posts a message on its user's social networking profile (such as Twitter) to notify. The unit is driven by an AT Mega368 microchip and can be constructed in a do-it-yourself manner.
- Rachio WiFi sprinkler system: This is an irrigation controller system developed for Smart Gardens or Smart Lawns to automate sprinkler control. The device is WiFi-connected, and users may control it from anywhere on the globe using an app or web browser. Users can also allow the Iro System to automatically adjust the settings based on weather forecasts from weather stations or the Internet.
- Niwa and AVA Byte Hydroponic systems: These are home-built indoor hydroponic systems that may be set up in a container box within the house. There is no need for a specific yard or garden. WiFi connectivity to the cloud servers over the Internet allows Niwa and AVA Byte systems to operate. Users can receive notifications of when plants need attention and can be monitored remotely through an App on a smartphone. Light, ventilation, and humidity elements can be managed remotely by users or cloud services.
- Smart Urban Gardens: This new initiative makes it easier to install gardens in any area of the user's house using IoT-enabled solutions. The system includes a light sensor, a temperature sensor, a soil moisture sensor, and an integrated Wi-Fi module. When the system is placed on the ground next to the cultivated plant and left for 24 hours, it informs users about the best vegetable that may be grown in that situation. Otherwise, it sends the farmer notifications on plant requirements (light, water) through text messages to smartphones. The system is intelligent and widespread enough to comprehend user voice commands (Natural Language Processing algorithms), obtain specific knowledge (Information Retrieval and Structured Knowledge Representation ), and handle it by drawing logical conclusions (Automated Reasoning).
Easy Ways to Get Started with Smart Gardens (from our customers)
These two options are about as easy as it gets to introduce yourself to smart gardening. Both of these ideas come from our customer reviews too!
One customer shared how she automates watering her garden using a 1 inch brass solenoid valve, connected to a timer.
“Good product, good price
It turns my garden watering on and off every day via a programmable timer.”
Another customer installed several ½” plastic solenoid valves to water his garden automatically by attaching them to smart outlets. The advantage of this over using a timer is that you can control most smart plugs remotely, meaning you can turn off the system if you aren’t home and want to turn off the watering because it is starting to rain.
“Great for simple automation
I bought a few of these over the years and I pair them with smart outlets in order to automate my garden watering and filling up my dog water bowls... No issues and I've had them running daily for years…”
The current state of the art in smart gardening includes various products that can help gardeners automate multiple tasks, such as watering, fertilizing, and pest control. These products are becoming increasingly affordable and easy to use, making them accessible to a broader range of consumers. As the market for smart gardening products continues to grow, we can expect to see even more innovative solutions that make it easier than ever to grow healthy plants. Smart Garden technologies have a lot of potential, but some issues still need to be addressed. Cost-effectiveness, standardization, simplicity, accuracy, and fault tolerance are all concerns that are currently being studied.