SDG (Smart Digital Garden) was founded with the intent of becoming a laboratory for the people of Brunswick. Through citizen science, making the art of growing food a point of interest. For children to experiment with different growing conditions and at the end of the process, harvesting your own hard earned crops. The types of plants that are grown range from regular salads to exotic herbs, from micro greens to organic tomatoes. With controlled growing conditions, any choice of crop can be grown year round and varied from one batch to the next.
SDG focuses on exploring the various approaches to growing plants with hydroponics. From the popular NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) where the roots of plants are suspended over a thin film of running water to vertical approaches such as grow towers. Each approach has its unique strenghts and different plants that thrive in them. Yet one aspect that binds each of them is that plants extract the nutrients they require directly from the water, removing the need for soil and enabling a closed water cycle.
The growth of plants is measured with a handful of sensors, ranging from the water temperature all the way to dissolved oxygen. This distributed data collection allows us to automate the growth, regulate the water parameters and ensure optimal growth parameters. The data is forwarded to our FlowLeaf servers where historic trends can be analyzed and high-level inferences made.
We develop our own hardware, using off-the-shelf components to enable low cost solutions. This allows us to rapidly prototype new technologies, investigate which measurement parameters are useful and open the technology to others. This has allowed us to supervise multiple degree thesises, which cover not only the technical aspects, but also the societial and environmental impacts of the agriculture industry.
This data can then be used by biologists and farmers to evaluate the plants’ growth performance. Cross-referencing this data to the growing conditions allows them to fine-tune the inputs and perform analysis such as which plants can be grown using the same solution. This process is accelerated by sharing the data. Combining the growth data from various hydroponic installations increases the amount of available data by magnitudes. This democratization of data allows growth performances of different plants in different conditions to be validated. In the end, creating an open market space of data.
At the end of the day, it is the people who make the future possible. In that sense, cheers!