Smart Garden?

Hi Guys,

I have a client in Arboriculture, and they have a (fairly wealthy) property management client. They want to install a ‘smart garden’. It sounds as if they’re complete novices who want to throw money at something reliable. I imagine anything ‘smart’ would fly. I was approached to make a ‘central hub/dashboard’ for this, but I’m not really the right person, and many of these things (e.g. Smartthings) already exist.

Owing to the fact that the end client is likely to be quite demanding, I am not going to recommend ST as there aren’t many (any?) people out there to support an installation in a professional capacity. My thoughts first turned to Control4 because that is a professional setup with good support. However, owing to the nature of only supporting reliable ‘things’, it seems as though making a ‘smart garden’ might not be possible.

Any ideas??

Thanks!

There are lots of smart gardens out there: automated landscape management as well as “agritech” (agricultural technology) are both big business areas. Very popular for office parks as well as farms.

But it’s not done with Control4 or any of the other “home automation” systems you’ve likely heard of: it’s a whole separate business niche with companies specialising in just those applications.

So the first question is exactly what’s the use case? Lawn? Ornamental shrubberies? Vegetables? Ivy? These have very different requirements.

And then what are the benefits they’re hoping for? Reduced Labour costs? Reduced water or fuel requirements? Simple bragging rights over
A property that includes a “smart garden”? The latter might be met simply with soil sensors and an automated irrigation system, for example, one of the most popular applications. :cloud_with_rain: :alarm_clock:

The size of the property and whether they want to manage multiples from the same dashboard also matters.

So more details are needed. :sunglasses:

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Thanks for the response @JDRoberts, glad to see you’re still here!

Bragging rights are a definite contributor to this. I think it’s also very important to keep things looking tip top, and also to inform visitors about the garden through technology if possible (although I suspect this might be done as an aside with something like QR codes on signs next to trees).

‘Roosting cameras’ and ‘bat box’ cameras (I guess just any nearish focus weatherproof camera) are a strong requirement, as is some kind of weather station. I think the client wants to push boundaries, so whilst lighting and irrigation are likely to be a want, they won’t be the end of it.

Edit to add - this is likely to be an installation on a residential property (multi tenant, but the posh kind). They’re likely to want to replicate it at many sites in the longer run I think.

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There are landscape management companies that do exactly that sort of thing, but I’d expect the cost to be upwards of £75,000 plus ongoing maintenance. Is that what they’re thinking of?

I think they’d consider that. I get the impression that money isn’t really an object. They need something supported, as they are demanding.

Even if that were too much, it’s important that they see how much this would realistically cost to be done professionally.

Bearing in mind my client does the arbour and landscape work already though, I’d want to be careful not to introduce any competition.

Any pointers?

Also, I don’t know what UK laws are with regard to exterior cameras. In the US, it varies from state to state and some allow video but not audio. It gets complicated.

They’d need to get advice on that, but these are private estates, and I think their idea would be to point into a nest or box rather than be any kind of CCTV, so I doubt there would be an issue. I won’t be giving my word on that though!

That does make it tricky. I ‘d go with “the latest” sensor and irrigation systems then and subcontract a security firm for cameras and exterior lighting.

For something with extra flash, add a robot lawnmower that can run while your client’s staff is present doing trimming and other arbour work. Give the robot a friendly name like Horace or something. “Horace takes care of the lawn whilst our expert staff sees to the health and well-being of trees and shrubs.” Using the same mower at multiple properties averages the cost and using it under supervision provides a safety measure.

Then add a weather station with a cool display. This will become more impressive if you have multiple properties as you can show microclimate variance. On a large enough property you can also do this with side by side displays for different parts of the property.

The robot mower And weather station display should sell it as high tech while actually requiring minimal outside expertise.

As to mowers…

Huqsvarna is the luxe brand:

In the UK, McCullough is also supposed to be good, but not as many features

Thanks for your help, and those mowers do look nice!

My client is at the forefront of a lot of what they do, but they’ve not been in the IoT market before. They really need a provider to compliment them rather than do it themselves (at least for now) I think. I don’t really know if they’d be overly concerned about competition being introduced, as they do a lot of niche stuff others can’t.

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Daily Mirror (so consider the source, obviously) had a surprisingly nice detailed review from someone who tried a Huqsvarna for several months.

You might want to look for a company who runs automatic lawnmowers. You can get a good first hand exercise from them.
I am surprised that your client hasn’t asked about lawnmowers. In my small town there are at least 3 gardeners who takes care of private property gardens all year long. One of them runs a business, where he sells plants, trees, etc. He used to have an automatic lawnmower too for display, until someone stole it from the front grass. (By the way the whole thing was recorded on camera by the petrol station next to his business.) Anyhow he was advising people if they wanted to buy automatic lawnmowers.

Smart irrigation is a cool thing. You can get many brands doing the same thing. Weather forecast correction and soil sensors makes it really smart. Orbit, Rachio, Rainbird, Spurce, Gardena the brands to look for. Some of them supports direct change from previous controllers. Gardena has a whole smart garden line as I know.

For lighting, you get better to talk with architects and electricians. There are plenty outside lighting solutions around. Some works as smart itself. Some can be made smart by wiring the switches to relays. Existing lighting solutions can be upgraded to smart setups too.

For weather stations you can get “cheap” ones, like FineOffset clones. Like Froggit WH3000. Or you can go for expensive Davis weather stations. Both can report to Weather Underground or to the Met Office. But I have a doubt you really need a weather station for a smart garden setup as tou would use internet services for weather forecast. But for the tenants, it gives a nice thing when they can look at their own place’s weather.

But really the question, what your clients want as “smart”. Fixed automations? Do they want to save electricity, water or manpower?

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I found interesting ideas regarding the smart garden and now, I would like to have all the installations you mentioned in my garden. I have enough space for gardening and I enjoy it when looks well, that’s why I can afford to invest a huge amount of money in it. Last year I already installed smart decking from https://www.dinodecking.co.uk/, which is resistant to weather conditions and is anti-slip, and anti-mold. Now, I’m ready to spend money on a smart garden. If anyone is interested in helping me with that I’ll be thankful.

@Sebastrue, what do you have in your garden already?
How is it look like? How big area is covered with grass only?

The start should be an irrigation system. But that is not really a DIY job as it requires a lot of pipe work and installation of sprinkler nozzles, valves etc. It is better to contract a company to do it for you.
There are some pretty good out of the box SmartThings compatible (controller) systems, like the Rachio and I thing the Spruce irrigation system as well.
Look at those first. They all support sprinklers and drip irrigation too for plants, trees and bushes.

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