Nordic-powered hydroponic smart planter provides optimal growing conditions at home

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The aspara Smart Grower uses the nRF52832 SoC to measure and adjust irrigation, light spectrum and intensity as well as nutrient levels, reducing grow time

Hong Kong-based Growgreen has released a smart indoor hydroponic planter for herbs, fruits, flowers, and vegetables. The ‘aspara® Smart Grower’ employs a removable water tank to automatically irrigate the plants, while LED ‘Grow Lights’ use variable light spectra and intensity to stimulate plant development at different stages of growth. 

The aspara Smart Grower uses a range of sensors to detect and monitor variables important for ideal growing conditions, including humidity, light intensity, water and nutrient levels. Using Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 SoC—and leveraging its powerful 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU)—the planters can then calculate and make any necessary changes to these variables, to optimize growth. Compared to planting in soil, and with the aid of in-app planting programs, plants can grow 50 percent faster, according to the company.

Connected growing

Using Nordic-powered Bluetooth® LE wireless connectivity the planter can connect to a smartphone with the ‘aspara’ iOS and Android app, which can in turn notify users when their water tank needs to be re-filled, or when their plants need additional nutrients. They can also access their planting data and be given helpful tips to optimize plant health. 

“We have designed the aspara Smart Grower series to provide research-optimized planting environments for the best growth,” says Dr Humphrey Leung, Founder & CEO of Growgreen. “The technology used in these growers aims to help control microclimates, and can provide specific programs for each plant species. It also applies the most appropriate lighting and water flow to offer harvest times of as short as four weeks.”

The unit is powered by a regular DC power supply, except for the planting sensor, which is battery-powered. 
The ultra-low power consumption of the Nordic SoC enabled Growgreen to extend the battery life of the sensor by three months. The nRF52832 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system.

The Nordic SDK has a full set of reference designs and its hardware development kits helped speed up the development process.
Dr Humphrey Leung, Growgreen

Water-saving alternative

“Creating a water-saving planting alternative was very important to us,” says Dr Leung. “Thanks to the sensors and hydroponic design, the aspara Smart Grower uses 90 percent less water than traditional soil farming methods because it can calculate and circulate water using only what is actually needed for optimal growth.

The aspara Smart Grower has been awarded the Green Product Audience Award 2020, Asia Exhibition of Inventions Hong Kong Award 2019, and the 2018 IHA Global Innovation Award, in recognition of its ability to grow plants quickly, with less wasted water and energy.

“Time is of the essence when creating our products,” says Dr Leung. “The Nordic SDK has a full set of reference designs and its hardware development kits helped speed up the development process. Nordic also has an open community of many developers which makes it easy to find assistance and examples online.”