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 or shade.
"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, 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
The sensor, which took about three years to develop, can run
for more than a year on a single set of batteries, according
"It kind of resembles a stone that is in the plant," he said.
The app, which is free, is available worldwide from the App
Store in English and German and there are plans for French
and Japanese versions.
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.