The past months we have been working behind the scenes on an a great initiative we named easygrow.io. It is a platform for assisted growing targeted at urban and indoor farmers using hydroponics systems, or in other words growing food crops in urban areas (farm to table movement) with the help of information technology.
To answer how a software company gets involved in growing crops, we need to go back in time a little.
In 2014 we entered an open call from the European Union called SmartAgriFood, which was part of its FISpace technology program and worked on a project. You can read all about our early green adventures in an blog post from March 2015 and its followup from September of that year. This was one of the first times we touched “agritech” and the the interest for it kind of stuck with us. Around this time also our interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) really took off. We have experimented with Parrot’s Flower Power product in the past which inspired us take a look to investigate sensors and analyzing data.
In May 2016 we were selected by the Floriade World Expo 2022 organization to become their digital partner and working together sparks inspiration (Go Greener). We built the Floriade 2022 website and we still work on improving and expanding the website and other digital products for the coming years. Through Floriade we came in contact with a lot more green initiatives.
Late 2016 we decided to create an actual growing setup at the office. We got a KRYDDA indoor growing cultivator from IKEA and started our “Plantjes” (Little Plants) project. We played around with hardware sensors and hacked a solution to monitor the growth. Using pumice stones as an alternative to soil we were able to grow quite some plants already in a short amount of time. But we wanted to go bigger.
Visits to the Wageningen University in December 2016 and to Patrick Stoffer who is utilizing the LGM (Leafy Green Machine) of Freight Farms in Deventer in April 2017 gave us more insight on urban farming, indoor farming, vertical farming, assisted growing and hydroponics. Early 2017 we moved from the IKEA setup and take indoor farming a step further. We decided to move on with the Dutch Bucket system, based on hydroponics. Our new setup, built on the window sill on the middle floor of our Almere office, consists of six buckets, connected to a larger reservoir containing water and nutrients. A pump in the reservoir supplies the plants with their exact needs. Per crop and growing phase the system controls and monitors the pH and the EC values.
This prototype became the base of what we call easygrow.io today. Our easygrow.io software platform revolves around data. Data coming from hardware sensors and other sources is processed and analyzed using machine learning techniques to continuously improve the grow recipes. The easygrow.io mobile app gives ultimate control over the hydroponics system and crops by monitoring, notifying and controlling.
Meanwhile, we also participated in the Floriade Werkt! Challenge, a competition about sustainable food supply for smart cities, and submitted our easygrow.io concept. We made many new contacts in the area of assisted growing and partner up with the Aeres Hogeschool.
In July 2017 we harvested the first batch of tomatoes and peppers from our easygrow.io setup. They were delicious!
Later that month, the easygrow.io lab arrived and was placed on our Almere office’s parking lot. With a lab literally in our backyard the “office farmers” will have their own spot where they can test and improve the easygrow.io software platform and validate the database of grow recipes.
This is only the beginning, we’ll be reporting back with more!
Originally published at www.elements.nl on August 7, 2017.