Latest computer technology helps researchers listen to plants

Scientists from the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and the University of Edinburgh are trialling new speckled computer technology on the Christmas crop of poinsettias from Pentland Plants Nursery.

The technology uses a range of sensors to wirelessly relay information back to a laboratory.

SAC plant pathologist Simon Oxley said: "We can check the temperature, light levels, moisture and nutrients around the plant along with the compost to make sure that everything is perfect for the plant to grow.

"With readings every minute, we can keep a close eye to make sure that the plants are kept in perfect condition ready for Christmas."

The project has been developed by the SAC, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and Pentland Plant Nursery.

It is the first time that speckled computer systems have been used in horticulture.

They have already been applied in medicine, where they can be used to monitor body movement or respiration.

The initial horticultural trial took place at the SAC and sensors were installed at Pentland in July.

Data are currently being compiled, but the system is expected to offer growers a more detailed picture of their crops and could potentially deliver light and energy savings when linked with automatic glasshouse and environment systems.

Pentland technical manager Jean Repecka said: "Poinsettias represent a big investment in time and expertise. The new technology offers the prospect of better control over inputs and a deeper understanding of how plants are thriving.

"It should raise an alarm if you get spots that are under-watered or that sort of thing."

The technology could also be applied in the retail sector, where it would be used to monitor garden centre polytunnels and planterias. 

It will learn about the daily pattern of temperatures, light and watering and will send a message to the grower if the plants are not properly cared for.

University of Edinburgh computer scientist and speckled computing consortium director DK Aryind said: "It is gratifying to see the outcome of our basic research in speckled computing now enabling precision horticulture with the potential for saving energy.

"Specks are finding new applications in a variety of other areas such as monitoring the natural environment and optimising energy usage in buildings."

The project is supported by the SAC New Technology Fund.

Research Consortium in Speckled Computing is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop miniature computing devices called specks that combine sensing, processing and wireless networking capabilities.


Subscribe to Horticulture Week for more news, more in-depth features and more technical and market info.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next



These compact, brightly coloured flowers can be very attractive for impulse sales, notes Miranda Kimberley.

Fertilisers Special Report - invaluable nutrition

Fertilisers Special Report - invaluable nutrition

Using the right fertilisers on your crops can make all the difference when it comes to securing repeat customers, Sally Drury advises.

IPM Essen Show Preview - New look for top trade fair

IPM Essen Show Preview - New look for top trade fair

Venue modernisation will mean better display space for exhibitors at Europe's largest trade fair for the horticulture industry, says Gavin McEwan.

Opinion... Gardening needs better promotion

Opinion... Gardening needs better promotion

British horticultural firms and organisations have not been the best at working together to promote our industry.

Opinion... A wish list for unblinkered thinking

Opinion... A wish list for unblinkered thinking

Opinion... A wish list for unblinkered thinking

Opinion... A wish list for unblinkered thinking

Generations of ordinary British people have been let down by weak, visionless leaders -- politicians more engaged by the next election than our national best interest.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production

Read Tim Edwards

Ornamentals ranking

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Top 30 Ornamentals Nurseries by Turnover 2017

Tough retail pricing policies and Brexit opportunities drive the top 30 growth strategies.

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world

Read more Peter Seabrook articles