Hi-tech flowerpot saves plants from owners’ mistakes

Over-, under- and a total absence of watering kills innumerable plants annually. Students at Israel’s Shenkar College are doing something about it

Pictured L. to R.: Dr. Ofer Schwartzglas, Erez Kagonovski, and Amit Rotheiser (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Pictured L. to R.: Dr. Ofer Schwartzglas, Erez Kagonovski, and Amit Rotheiser (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Houseplants, according to scientists, can be very beneficial, from purifying the air you breathe to improving your attention span. But none of those benefits accrue if your plants die because you forgot to water them.

There are no statistics about how many houseplants die annually because they weren’t watered, or perhaps more commonly, watered incorrectly, with owners giving them too much or too little water at the wrong time. For plant owners who are watering-challenged, students at Tel Aviv’s Shenkar College of Engineering and Design have designed a “smart planter,” a flowerpot that knows how much water to dispense and when to dispense it.

The flowerpot contains sensors that determine the room’s temperature and humidity, a timer to keep track of watering events, and a sensor that detects how wet the soil is. You fill up a tank with water, turn the flowerpot on, and the system takes care of the rest. A light comes on when more water is needed (the tank’s capacity is enough for two weeks of watering for most houseplants). And the whole thing runs on solar power, so there’s no need to swap batteries.

The pot was designed by Ofir Zucker, a graduate of Shenkar’s Industrial Design department, along with students Amit Rotheiser and Erez Kagonovski. Actually there are two models — an “artistic” model consisting of two glass containers, one inside the other, that, said the school, emphasizes “the dynamics between natural substances such as plant, soil, water, and light, and the artificial, including the sensors, hoses, and lighting systems.” The other model has a “high-tech” design, in which an LED strip lights up and reflects onto the plant, as if it and the pot were integrated.

“This is an ingenious invention, based on the integration of existing technologies that are arranged in a manner that makes the daily task of watering houseplants easier,” said Dr. Ofer Schwartzglas, head of Shenkar’s Electrical Engineering department. “The solar-powered flowerpot prevents plants from dying of dehydration when their owners are out of the house, and avoids wasting water by ensuring that the precise amount is dispensed, ensuring that the plant is neither over- or under-watered. This way, plants can grow up healthy,” he added.

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