TORONTO May 28 Wilted, starving, thirsty
houseplants could soon be getting more tender loving care thanks
to a new plant sensor and app that tells owners when it is time
for watering and feeding.
The Koubachi Wifi Plant Sensor, which is placed in the soil
of the potted plant, connects with a smartphone app that alerts
users when plants need watering, misting, fertilizer or more sun
"There's very little information when you buy a plant. Most
of the time there's a little sticker that will say it needs a
medium amount of light and water every few days. But that's very
rough and doesn't apply for most plants," said
Phillipp Bolliger, the inventor of the system and CEO of
Koubachi AG, which is based in Zurich, Switzerland.
The sensor collects data such as soil moisture, light
intensity and ambient temperature, which is sent to the app,
available for iOS devices and through the web.
Bolliger said water monitoring is particularly important.
"The problem people run into most often is that they give
too much water -- that's the main cause of killing plants," he
explained in an interview.
The data is used to customize care plans, delivered via the
app, for more than 135 species of plants, including orchids,
tomatoes and umbrella plants. The care plans were developed in
conjunction with plant physiologists at ETH Zurich, the Swiss
Institute of Technology.
Bolliger said the plant care plans can be accessed through
the app without purchasing a sensor, but they are more accurate
when paired with it.
"We run different experiments with a lot of different plant
types in the greenhouse," said Bolliger. "We have our experts
assess the vitality of the plant. Then we verify our models
given the actual expert analysis of the plant's vitality."
He added that it is not necessary to purchase a sensor,
which costs 100 euros ($125), for each plant because there is a
multi-plant feature that allows the system to learn the
specifics of the plant in a few weeks, depending on the size of
the plant. It will have enough information to tailor the plant
care plan and the sensor can then be used in a different plant.
The sensor, which took about three years to develop, can run
for more than a year on a single set of batteries, according to
"It kind of resembles a stone that is in the plant," he
The app, which is free, is available worldwide from the App
Store in English and German and there are plans for French and
The sensor is sold only online at store.koubachi.com. The
company is planning to expand its distribution to local
retailers in the United States and Canada.
(Reporting by Natasha Baker; editing by Patricia Reaney)