Two Italian start-ups have devised smart modular solutions for hassle-free indoor gardening and on the external walls of buildings. With the help of Wi-fi, sensors, mobile apps and a robotic arm, these systems need minimal maintenance while taking care of the plants automatically.
The Living Farm Tree, developed by Hexagro Urban Farming from Milan, is a modular, customisable system suitable for customers who want to produce their own food indoors. The system can be used for growing any plants that can be cultivated by aeroponic technology – which sprays nutrient-rich water on the roots of plants suspended in a basket. No soil is required. According to the company, plants cultivated by aeroponic technology can grow three times faster and uses 90 per cent less water than soil cultivation.
The modular system comes in various sizes and configurations that can fit the space and environment indoors. With the help of a mobile app and Wi-fi, the system manages each module independently to ensure each plant type receives the right amount of water, nutrients and light. Once users input information about the plant, the app will automatically download the production pattern from the internet, start production and tell users when to harvest. Each module has six baskets for the plant roots, and can, for example, produce 24 lettuces or 96 basil plants a month.
Another modular solution, Orth from Orthoponics, also in Milan, allows customers to grow plants on the external walls of buildings with easier maintenance than those cultivated by conventional Green Wall Technology. Using hydroponic technology rather than soil cultivation can reduce water usage by 90 per cent.
The Orth system is fully automatic, from sowing to harvesting; and can be used to produce edible or ornamental plants. With its wireless sensors, the system can monitor the growth and health of the plants on the panels. It is equipped with a robotic arm which is able to move around on the tracks embedded in the system. The robotic arm can be used to harvest the plants, or move the pots from the panel to the rooftop and replace the plants.