Hydroponics IoT Plant Pot

An industrial design and product development project of the “click-and-grow” smart plant pot with IoT functionality and significant stress on customized UX/UI design and functionality.

Industry:

IoT

,

Agritech

TRL:

2 → 3

Project duration:

2 months

Challenge

A group of agricultural scientists came to EnCata with the idea of developing a consumer IoT “pot” for home plant vegetation. The team had significant experience in plant biology, and they required an engineering concept development and customized industrial design to differentiate it from other indoor DYI hydroponic solutions.

We were tasked with both the technical concept development and also engineering consultancy support in order to set the direction for their further in-house development of the project.

Our Role

  • Concept development
  • Industrial design
  • Engineering consultancy
  • CAD design
  • BOM development

Technologies Used

pH sensor

pH sensor / meter

Root Ventilator

Root ventilator

UV solution treatment

UV solution treatment

Grow light LED

Grow light LED

Ultrasonic mist generator

Ultrasonic mist generator/fogger

Rechargeable battery

Rechargeable battery

Wi-Fi on ESP32

Wi-Fi on ESP32

Bluetooth low energy (BLE)

Bluetooth low energy (BLE)

Peristaltic pump

Peristaltic pump

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R&D + design + manufacturing under ONE roof
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Intergrated hardware + software development
New technologies and research 

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MVP and POC prototypes
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All IP is yours
In-house batch production

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Approach & Solution

The initial work on this project involved product definition followed by engineering specif development. The product functionality and developed user stories suggested the product should comprise these components and modules:

  1. A "Pot" for growing plants
  2. A cup for periodic seed germination
  3. A module for triggering seed germination and growth (stepper driven peristaltic pump)
  4. An ultrasonic fog/mist generator for plant root nutrition
  5. Blowing of the radiator to cool the nutrient solution
  6. Enabled solution circulation over the membrane of the mist generator
  7. Solution temperature control
  8. pH sensors to control the solution acidity and indirect control of the dissolved fertilizers’ concentration
  9. Chemical control of the nutrient solution
  10. Solution level control
  11. Water tank built into the body - 20L + the filler neck with filter
  12. Replaceable containers for concentrated chemicals - 0.5 L, 5 pcs.
  13. Liquid level control for  water and concerted solutions
  14. Periodic ventilation of the mist chamber
  15. Ultraviolet treatment of the solution
  16. Height-adjustable stand with Phyto LED lamp
  17. Light sensors
  18. Plant growth controls and sensors
  19. External temperature sensor
  20. External  humidity sensor
  21. Glazing + ventilation of the pot
  22. Back-up battery + charging unit
  23. User interface: Indicator panel
  24. Wireless IoT-enabled mobile/cloud connectivity to gather sensor data 
  25. Light reflector

Hydroponics is not ideal technology from the IoT and automation standpoint as the salty solution mist is highly corrosive for various parts and components exposed. For example, many plant pot IoT solutions are plagued with the problem of ‘fertilizer salts crystallization,’ which dramatically reduces their lifespan and requires painstaking maintenance.  
Additionally, the humid hydroponic environment enables the growth of various bacteria, germs and fungi which can impact the host pot/plant as well as cause a plethora of other unwanted implications. Therefore, it is crucial in design and engineering of the smart IoT agriculture products to consider special materials and water/humidity proof enclosures for modules involved.

We developed the technical concept with this spec together with the preliminary bill of materials (BOM). Industrial design sketches and render visuals helped visualize various paths for product appearance. The developed technical concept and component arrangement were all made in CAD so it was a lot easier for the industrial designers to work with the form and shape of the product.

The consumer market for smart agronomy demands a “click-and-grow” solution, which seems easy to design at first glance. Available smart B2C solutions often frustrate consumers as they demand much routine maintenance, DIY skills for tweaking them and leave users with their hands dirty as if they were growing their flowers and vegetables traditionally.

Results

In this project, we helped the startup move their lab agronomy technology in the consumer market direction and developed a detailed technical concept with Bill of Materials, CAD models and documentation for further prototyping.

4

concepts developed as part of this project

9

major modules designed as part of this project to enable functionality as per spec

$55

USD BOM cost achieved in design-to-cost objective

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