App: Plants can text

Photo Illustration by Travis Taylor
Photo Illustration by Travis Taylor
Photo Illustration by Travis Taylor

By Kate McGuire
Staff Writer

What was once inconceivable is now a reality. Gardeners can now text their plants.

Plant Link, a new product designed by Baylor alumni, allows gardeners to water their plants properly by calculating the plants’ environment and when it should be watered. Baylor graduate (’11) Eduardo Torrealba (’11) who is the founder and CEO of Oso Technologies, developed Plant Link after his wife received a plant from a former professor and it began to wither.

“The system starts with links that you place in the soil of your plant. The links then measure the soil moisture,” Torrealba said. A link is an electronic device tailored to a specific plant that monitors that plants water needs. It is designed to send a signal to any device that uses the Plant Link App and send notifications for when the plant needs water.

Once the soil has been measured, it connects back to the Plant Link database where the researchers customize a watering schedule for customer’s plants. This schedule is designed so plants receive the proper amount of water based upon the factors that guard the plant, such as temperature, current and future weather conditions, even the soil in which it is planted.

Plant Link sends emails, text messages and push notifications when you are close to your plants so you can feed them.

If the plants are outside — like a garden or even your grass — Plant Link automatically starts to water your plant with a wireless valve that is connected to the hose. After the plants have received enough water, it shuts off automatically. The Plant Link will sell for around $100, which includes the valve and three links, with individual links to be sold soon. It will begin selling from different companies this coming summer.

Torrealba developed the idea during the summer of 2011. Once his wife’s plant started to wither, Torrealba began playing with different automated parts to find a way for the plant to water itself.

“I found that over and under-watering are the top killers of houseplants and gardens,” Torrealba said. When working with different prototypes, Torrealba said he knew he needed to bring in his engineering friends from Baylor to help. Michael Clemenson, who graduated from Baylor in 2010, said Torrealba had a meeting to show the engineers his ideas. Torrealba and Clemenson received their undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Baylor and both began graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Clemenson received his master’s this past summer and is now working on his Ph.D. “It was really cool because it’s not very often when you get to work with your friends,” Clemenson said. Torrealba then composed a team of other Baylor alumni, including Trevor Hutchins and Bradley Sanders. Together the four worked on different prototypes to create a system that could water plants automatically. Once the team, with new members and professors from the University of Illinois in Urbana, were ready to unveil the final product they looked into the website, Kickstarter. From there they received about $88,000 in funding from potential buyers and companies looking to sell Plant Link.

Oso Technologies has partnered with SmartThings, a company that works with automated household products from other companies to market these products for homeowners. Clemenson said the money from the funding from Kickstarter will go toward hiring new full-time and part-time employees who will distribute the product to buyers.