Wireless devices are everywhere. They help us communicate and share information, and allow us to perform a wide variety of tasks that would have seemed impossible just one generation ago. In fact, I can remember when a phone was a non-portable device that had to be connected to a wall jack. My children certainly do not associate telephones with the prehistoric versions I remember as a child. This is the reality of the evolution of technology. What is an incredible breakthrough to one generation is the norm to the next, and I believe this same phenomenon will have a huge effect on future generations of indoor growers.
Wireless Technology in the Garden
If you compare where the indoor gardening industry was 20 years ago to where it is today, you can see how technological advancements—both in the equipment we use and our knowledge of plant physiology—will continue to shape the future of indoor growing. Wireless devices are being used in more and more indoor gardens and greenhouses, and it won’t be long until the next generation of gardeners considers them the norm.
Wireless devices specific to indoor horticulture are growing in popularity. In the future, advanced wireless devices will be the way most indoor growers monitor, log data and control the hardware in their gardens. Today, a few companies have already introduced wireless technology into the indoor horticulture industry. The way it works is simple: wireless devices for the garden use a specific hub or connect to a router to transfer information, as well as commands in cases where the device can be controlled remotely. Aside from the hub, wireless automation devices are usually comparable in size and shape to typical automation devices. Some wireless systems offer much smaller sensors, which can be advantageous in the already-too-crammed growroom. In many indoor gardens, every inch of space matters.
The automation of hardware in the garden is the key to efficiency and a more profitable return. Hardware such as lighting equipment, fans, air conditioners, dehumidifiers and CO2 equipment can all be controlled to help maintain consistent environmental conditions in the garden. For years, indoor growers have been reaping the benefits of automation equipment. Thermostatic controllers for temperature, humidistat controllers for humidity, and timer boxes or lighting controllers for high-powered lighting equipment have been used with good reviews for a long time now.
So how will wireless devices change the game for garden automation? The two largest advantages of wireless devices over conventional automation devices are mobility and increased control. In a wireless system, the sensors that relay the information back to the hub have more freedom when it comes to growroom placement. The absence of wires allows these sensors to be placed virtually anywhere in the garden. They can also be easily relocated if the configuration of the growroom changes, or if you want to experiment with different locations.
This increased mobility is advantageous because it allows you to obtain more accurate readings. For example, a typical thermostatic controller may be placed on the wall of a garden to control the heating and cooling devices. If the thermostat is not centrally located, the temperature sensed by the device will not necessarily represent the temperature in the plant canopy. Since the temperature in the plant canopy is what growers are most concerned with, it makes sense to monitor and control temperature from that point in the garden. A wireless sensor is simply placed in the plant canopy and moved as plants grow, which provides the most accurate readings possible. This same principle can be applied to humidistat controllers. The humidity on the wall of a growroom can differ greatly from the humidity within the plant canopy. All in all, wireless sensors can be placed in locations that give growers more accurate readings regarding atmospheric conditions.
Aside from providing more accurate readings, wireless garden automation systems greatly increase a grower’s control over their grow space. This is mainly due to the ability to remotely control various types of hardware in the growroom. Just think, even if you are hundreds of miles away, you can monitor and control virtually every aspect of your indoor garden. Heaters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, lighting equipment and irrigation systems can all be controlled remotely with a wireless system. You could use your mobile device to monitor your garden in Colorado while sitting on a beach in California.
What I see as one of the biggest advantages of wireless automation systems is the ability to log mass amounts of data for every grow cycle. Collecting data allows you to analyze your garden over a long period of time and make changes or predictions based on that data, which can be used to increase production. Having data from previous garden cycles also allows you to experiment and compare results with previously recorded data. By monitoring data, you can troubleshoot more precisely, predict seasonal environmental changes more accurately and fine-tune multiple factors that contribute to an indoor garden’s success.
I know some of you are probably thinking about all the time it would take to go through all that data. I agree, who wants to sort through a bunch of data? Fortunately, some of the wireless systems designed for gardening include software that makes graphing and other quick references to the data a snap. With graphing software, you can compare any amount of data at a glance. In other words, the ability to log and compare data allows you to be as scientific as you want.
Peace of Mind
Although typical automation devices will usually keep a garden’s parameters in check, there is always the chance of disaster. A faulty air conditioner or exhaust fan could mean your plants get cooked under the heat of the high-intensity lighting, possibly in a matter of hours. What if the pump on the hydroponic system fails when you are away and the plants’ roots dry out completely? These scenarios are not common, but they still happen, and nothing is more disheartening than seeing a perfectly healthy garden be destroyed by some sort of freak accident. Growers who have many years of experience under their belts will tell you, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when an event like this happens.
After experiencing a disaster or two of my own, I can easily see the benefits of installing a wireless system that provides an alarm to a smartphone or tablet. A wireless automation system can send alerts to warn of a potential disaster. For example, if your air conditioner dies and the temperature of the room gets above your set threshold, you would receive an alert on your phone or mobile device. You could then check on your room’s environmental conditions and make adjustments remotely. In this scenario, such an adjustment might be turning off some or all of the lighting until you got back to fix the air conditioner.
What all of this equates to is increased peace of mind. With a wireless automation system, the risk of a disaster is reduced to practically nothing. For this benefit alone there will be many indoor growers implementing wireless systems into their gardens sooner than later. After all, the last thing any grower wants is to lose their entire crop, especially if it is preventable.
As mentioned earlier, one of the most interesting components of a wireless automation system is the software. Graphing and organizing data is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how sophisticated software will affect indoor gardening in the future. Many wireless systems come with software that creates an interface much like the typical automation systems many growers have become accustomed to, so it is not difficult to transition from typical automation equipment to a wireless automation system. The biggest difference is the increased control many of these systems provide over typical automation devices. From more precise thresholds, to long-term programming, there are few things that aren’t possible with a wireless automation system.
Wireless automation devices open up a whole new world of benefits to gardeners, including increased control and peace of mind. With the capability to log data, many growers will soon be taking efficiency to a whole new level. The ability to compare data from multiple garden cycles can paint growers a more accurate portrait of how their gardens are affected by changes.
Essentially, the ability to compare data allows proper experimentation to take place. Every indoor grower is looking for ways to optimize their efforts, and wireless automation devices are one of the most effective tools they can use to achieve optimal growroom conditions.