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This Device Lets You Listen to What Your Plants are Saying

Jul 01, 2016 04:04 AM EDT
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There's a device that allows you to "listen" to what your plants are telling you.

PhytlSigns amplifies the electrical signals that plants emit, allowing people to hear them through a speaker attached to the device and see them through a mobile app.

According to Nigel Wallbridge, tech entrepreneur and founder of Vivent Sárl, the Swiss company that created the device, this new way of monitoring plant activity will help people understand and manage them better.

"By analyzing the signals our plants are emitting we can start to unlock the messages within them, and ultimately - decode the language of plants," Wallbridge said in a press release.

"Is a plant under attack from pests? Does it need water? Understanding what our plants are saying is exciting for everyone - from those who would like to take better care of their plants, to those interested in the environment, sustainability, the future of food production and open agriculture... the possibilities are far reaching," he added.

Penny Sarchet of New Scientist, who was able to try the device on a potted lily, said that the plant - through PhytlSigns - gives off electronic noises.

"It's like having a vocally disruptive child in the room. Eventually, I'm forced to turn it off," Sarchet said.

According to PhytlSigns website, decodes the signals of the plant itself, rather than just measuring air temperature or the soil. It measures voltage in plants using two electrodes, one that is inserted into the soil and the other attached to a leaf or stem. The speaker gives off a squeal, which means the voltage is changing. The higher the sound, the faster the change.

The device works both indoors and outdoors. Plant owners simply insert the stake into the soil, connect the clip to a leaf and turn the device on.

The package includes the unit with a built-in speaker, which is powered by batteries and rechargeable with a USB connector, an easy-to-attach leaf clip, a ground stake, and an app compatible with Apple and Android mobile devices, as well as Apple, Linux and Windows computers.

Edward Farmer, plant biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland verified the signals detected from the plants using PhytlSigns. He recorded actual electrical events in plants in a laboratory and compared these signals with those from the device.

"The PhytlSigns device picked these signals up very well," Farmer told New Scientist.

"The device also detects smaller signals, most of which have no known biological function."

Wallbridge recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for PhytlSigns that aims to raise $76,000, which will be used in purchasing tooling components for the first mass production run and making improvements on the app.

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