About this project
Plant Link makes you a smarter gardener.
Plant Link is a system that monitors the water needs of your lawn, garden, or house plants. It alerts you when they need to be watered and can even water them for you.
Place a link next to a plant or in your lawn
Place the Link in the soil next to your plant or in your lawn. Links work both indoors and outdoors.
Tell us the type of plant
Log in to our website and tell us the type of plant you want to monitor. Each Link is meant to be paired with one plant (or area of the lawn) because different plants have different watering needs.
Plant Link tells you when you should water...
Your Link regularly measures the amount of water in the soil. It sends that information via the base station to our website, where your online watering schedule is updated accordingly. You can elect to receive watering alerts via email, push notification or text message.
...Or Plant Link waters for you with our smart valve
When you pledge $149 or higher you also receive a smart valve. The valve can control the water flow to your hose and irrigate your lawn or outdoor plants when they are thirsty.
You can log in to check your plants at any time
View your watering schedule any time by logging in to our website.
We need your help!
We’ve been developing Plant Link for the past year and are finally ready to move to production. Your support will help us share Plant Link with the rest of the world. We have several different pledge levels available, so take a look and choose the one that works best for you. If we hit our goal we can manufacture our first batch here in the Midwest.
Oso is comprised of a collection of current and former graduate students from the University of Illinois. Our backgrounds are primarily in mechanical and electrical engineering. Through our time in graduate school and industry we have acquired the skills in software design, web development, mechanical design, design for manufacturability, and project management needed to move Plant Link from concept to reality.
Michael Clemenson - Mechanical design. Michael designed and fabricated all of the enclosures/mechanical components for the current system. Mechanical engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
Trevor Hutchins – Embedded systems guru. Designed and built prototype electrical hardware. Electrical engineer with a master’s degree from UIUC.
Austin Lyons – Web hacker for the team. Austin wrote the website that controls everything. Electrical engineer with a master’s degree from UIUC.
Emily Lyons - PR & marketing. Emily helps write the blog, handles the social media, and oversees marketing and public relations efforts. Currently pursuing an MA in Mass Communication at Texas State University.
Bradley Sanders – Mechanical design/plant science. Brad has been working with the help of experts from around the world to develop the algorithm that determines when your plant needs water. Mechanical engineer with a master’s degree from UIUC.
Eduardo Torrealba - Came up with the idea for the product. Eduardo built the first (ugly) prototype and brought the group together. Mechanical engineering graduate student at UIUC.
We have been fortunate enough to connect with mentors, in areas ranging from industrial design to business development, who have guided us as we iterated on the design of Plant Link.
Additionally, through our contacts at the University of Illinois we have been communicating with some of the leading plant science researchers from around the world to ensure that all of the agricultural information that we have found is technically accurate.
The technical details
How far along are you in development?
We’ve produced seven different versions of Plant Link in the past year. Our prototypes have gone from simple wired systems to the fully wireless version you see today.
The outside shells of the prototypes in the video are 3D printed SLA with a layer of paint to closely match the final finish of a manufactured part. Final versions will be injection molded plastic.
The electronics were hand assembled by Trevor using off the shelf components (the valve, the microcontroller) combined with some custom designed PCBs that were ordered from a distributor in the US. The final version of the electronics will go through a couple of rounds of refinement before manufacturing to shrink some of the components for pick and place manufacturing, but the devices will have the same functionality that you see here.
How are you going to manufacture Plant Link?
We have been working with a lot of great people here in central Illinois to lay the foundation for getting Plant Link manufactured. The team at The Product Manufactory has helped us develop our prototypes to the point that they can be mass produced. We have also had conversations with experts in machining, injection molding, and electronics manufacturing who have the facilities and experience we need to fulfill all of the rewards for our backers.
How does Plant Link know when I should water?
Our website uses the soil moisture readings it receives from a Link to determine when you need to water. The algorithm we use is based on a scientific model that has been in use in agriculture for over 50 years. Because different types of plants can have different watering needs, our calculation takes into account the type of plant with which your Link is associated. In addition, if the Link is outside we consider your local weather patterns when creating your watering schedule. Your watering schedule is updated every time we receive a new soil moisture reading. Soil moisture readings are taken every 5-10 minutes.
Can I use Plant Link with (insert plant type here)?
Yes. We have a database with information about the watering needs of a variety of plants. Our backers will be sent a survey at the end of the campaign where they can tell us what plants they plan to monitor and we will ensure that those plants are in the database before we ship.
When you use a Link, you will log in to our website and tell us what type of plant you want to pair with the Link. At that time, if your plant is not yet in our database, let us know via email. We’ll find the necessary information and add the plant to the database as quickly as possible.
What is the base station for?
The base station connects your Links with our website. The Links communicate with the base station using the Zigbee specification. The Internet connected base station then uploads the information it received from the Links to our website. Note that the base station has an Ethernet port for connecting to the internet. Simply plug it into your home router and you are good to go.
How does the smart valve work?
The smart valve can communicate with the base station using the Zigbee specification. When your plant needs water the base station tells the valve to open. Once you plant has been adequately watered the valve receives a message to close. The valve is also designed to automatically shut down if the power goes out or if it does not receive a close command from the base station in a certain amount to time. No flooded gardens or crazy water bills.
How does this work with SmartThings?
We'll be creating custom smart apps that are going to be in the SmartThings app store for our customers. Our Links will interface with SmartThings' app ecosystem and you can pair watering notifications to other SmartThings like light switches, alarms, etc. You'll also be able to control our valve through the SmartThings app.
Do you ship internationally?
Yes. We want to keep the shipping costs as low as possible, and will let you know what the precise rates will be as soon as we can.
Is there an annual subscription fee?
There is no subscription fee for Kickstarter Backers.
How many Links and valves can I use at once?
As many as you want.
But why are there only three Links and one valve? I want a different number of Links and valves.
Per Kickstarter’s rules, we are unable to offer additional Links and valves a la carte. If we reach our fundraising goal, we will offer the ability to purchase more Links and valves through our website.
What plants are in the database?
We’ll be sending a form to all of our backers asking them what plants they plan on monitoring with Plant Link. We will make sure to have all of those plants in our database by the time they receive their Plant Link. After launching, we’ll continue to add plants to the database as they are requested.
What about the (temperature, pH, sunlight, etc)? Plants need more than just the correct amount of water.
In our discussion with plant scientists, we learned that the most important factor in keeping plants healthy is administering the correct amount of water. We still encourage you to consider other factors such as sunlight and temperature needs when choosing and maintaining your plants. If we reach our funding goal early we will consider adding additional functionality to the Links.
Your soil in Illinois is different than my soil in Texas. Will my Plant Link still work?
Yes. We account for soil type in our calculations. Our website will ask you for your soil type in addition to plant type whenever you configure a Link.
How far can Links be away from the base station?
Roughly 100 yards on average, but it depends. How far the Links can be placed from the base station depends on what stands between them. If you have a big yard, the closer your base station is to the Links, the better. Dense objects, like walls, floors, and ceilings attenuate the signal, making it more difficult for the base station to detect the Links. Our prototype hardware successfully transmits a few hundred yards, but we plan to optimize battery life of future Links, so the transmission distance will be about 100 yards.
Are the valve and Links weatherproof?
Yes, the valve and Links are designed to be weatherproof.
What if my Internet goes down?
If your Internet goes down, the soil moisture readings will not be uploaded to our website, and therefore we won’t be able to update your watering schedule. As soon as your Internet comes back on, up-to-date moisture readings will be uploaded to our website and we’ll update your watering schedule accordingly.
I have a small raised bed with a couple of tomato plants in it. Could one sensor work with an entire group of tomatoes?
Assuming that the plants are fairly close together and you distribute water evenly, one sensor could work with a group of the same type of plants.
What if my garden flourishes because I finally start giving my plants the correct amount of water?
You should send us a picture and tell us your story!
Who made your video?
Victor Suarez of tadashi.tv
Can I get a long version of that sweet graphic that explains how this works?
Can you give me a long explanation of how you know when I should water?
Our Links yield a measurement that allows us to determine the soil water availability. Soil water availability is the capacity of soil to retain water, which is, in turn, available for use by plants. This availability is bounded by two limits: field capacity (FC) and permanent wilting point (PWP). Field capacity is the state in which the soil cannot hold any more water against gravitational forces. In other words, the addition of more water (via rainfall or irrigation) would saturate the soil, resulting in downward drainage. Saturation of the soil displaces any oxygen in the soil pores, which is also necessary for a healthy plant.
In the absence of water supply, the water content in the plant root zone decreases as water is extracted by the roots. As water uptake occurs, the remaining water clings to the soil particles with greater force, making it more difficult for the plant to extract. Water uptake by the plant ceases when the PWP is reached. At this point, the scarcely remaining water clings so tightly to the soil particles that the roots can no longer extract it causing the plant to permanently wilt.
The difference between the amount of water at FC and that at PWP is called the total available water (TAW). However, although water is theoretically available until PWP, plant water uptake is dramatically reduced at a soil water content well above this point as the remaining water becomes more strongly bound to the soil matrix. When the soil water content is depleted by a certain amount, the soil water can no longer be transported quickly enough to counter the water losses of the plant due to transpiration. Therefore, the readily available water (RAW) is the fraction of TAW that a plant can extract from its root zone before the plant begins to suffer water stress. This fraction provides the healthy usable water availability range for the plant and is adjusted for plant type and atmospheric conditions. Plant Link measures the water matric potential and water content in your soil to ensure that it falls within the RAW range so that your specific plants are supplied just the right amount of water.
University of Illinois
University of Illinois Technology Entrepreneurship Center
Dr. Gregory Leman
The Product Manufactory
Our beta testers
Risks and challenges
Although we have some great experiences from our past and current industry jobs, no one at Oso has ever taken a product all the way through the complete development cycle. Because of this, there is the potential that we will not meet our design deadlines to move into manufacturing on time. We are actively working to avoid this by giving ourselves extra time in our development schedule and by seeking out the advice and input of seasoned professionals with decades of experience in these fields.
Manufacturing a product is difficult. Many Kickstarter projects run into problems securing suppliers and manufacturing services. Thankfully, there are a number of great manufacturing contractors here in central Illinois that we plan to work with to bring our first batch of Plant Link systems to our backers. We have been in touch with fabrication and assembly contractors that will be more than capable of producing the quantities of systems that we expect to need once we reach our fundraising goal. Nevertheless, there is always the possibility that our manufacturing process could hit a road bump or two and cause us to miss our anticipated shipping date.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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