One industry that Silicon Valley has yet to disrupt is gardening. But a new product by an emerging Oakland startup may change just that.
Edyn is one of the many companies using the “Internet of Things” to bring their product to the fore. Their Smart Garden System combines intelligent hardware with an application you can access on your smartphone. By simply placing a solar-powered monitor in your garden, you can learn about the composition of your soil and track its changing water content.
The product arrives at a key time for California. With Jerry Brown announcing this month that the state has only a year of water left, many local residents are concerned about what the state will do to react to the continuing drought. But Jason Aramburu believes that saving water–and knowing how much you will save–is a very important part of surviving one of the worst droughts in state history.
Aramburu’s backstory is as interesting as his product. After studying ecology at Princeton University, the graduate volunteered in Kenya helping local farmers grow crops using his education in botany and soil composition. When he realized he could use certain hardware to monitor certain parts of the soil, he realized he had a product.
In 2014, the young entrepreneur leveraged the crowdfunding power of Kickstarter and raised over $350,000 in the process.
Edyn is currently located in the former location of Oaksterdam University, the infamous educational center for cannabis growers in the East Bay. After federal agents raided the location in 2012, Edyn rented out the 15th Street location. Today, they lease the ground floor to weekly yoga classes but use the upper level to host offices and a makeshift greenhouse.
Edyn’s flagship product is a sleek, yellow pod that rises about six inches out of the soil. The top, outfitted with a solar panel, keeps the battery charged and allows the pod to remain in the ground for an extended period of time.
Aramburu explained that the design was a vital part of the monitor. Built with the help of world-renowned industrial designer Yves Behar, the product looks like it could be a conventional garden light, but as Aramburu explained to me, there is far more packed into the device than one may think.
The monitor tracks the amount of water in the ground and sends the information straight to an Iphone app. As their promotional video explains, you will receive notifications when you need to water, as well as when the water content is imbalanced. For California residents, businesses and farmers, Edyn could provide a smart solution for preventing water shortages in drought-stricken areas.
The app will also inform its users on the soil composition by measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil. For amateur users, this information will help you plant the right seeds in the right place. Aramburu recommends that first-time gardeners try planting tomatoes first.
He credits other Silicon Valley success stories, like Google-owned Nest, for motivating him and his team during the creation process. “We look at companies like Nest as inspiration. They did tremendous work with something we didn’t even think about,” he said. Last year, Google bought Nest for $3.2 billion.
Aramburu is looking to continue the implementation of intelligent software in the monitor, including several machine learning algorithms to help parse vital data. As the amount of information increases, growers will be able to receive more specific insights pertaining to their gardening.
“We incorporate some machine learning on our server side to identify trends in the data and group different readings from the sensor,” he said. “As those technologies continue to involve, we will continue to implement them.”
Edyn has already been in talks with Home Depot to get the monitor on the shelves for spring and summer. But Aramburu believes that the benefits of smart garden monitoring will go beyond the consumer market.
Only a few years ago, the Internet of Things was a Silicon Valley buzzword. Today, entrepreneurs like Aramburu may very well be the front line in combating water shortages and soil degradation in California and abroad.