back to article Behold the Internet of Turf: IoT sucks waste energy from living plants to speak to satellites

Scientists say they have used electricity generated by plant life to power an IoT sensor and send a signal to an overhead satellite. Power-sipping IoT specialists, Harwell, Oxford based Lacuna Space and Dutch grass-botherers Plant-e announced the pilot yesterday, which saw a plant-powered sensor transmit data to a satellite in …

  1. 0laf Silver badge

    I'm kind a shocked

    I'm not sure how to respond, this is an IOT thing that is neither laughable nor pointless.

    Technology seems innovative, useful and appropriate.

    Developers even acknowledge its failing in terms of biodegradability.

    I feel a bit faint

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: I'm kind a shocked

      I'm also not sure whether to be impressed or worried that such power levels are enough to talk to a satellite these days...

      1. Jess--

        Re: I'm kind a shocked

        with a constant 1mA you can quite easily store that power in a large capacitor or battery that can then be used periodically for a burst of much higher current usage

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    5G internet of spuds

    Now I'm worried will this give my spuds brain cancer?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Houseplants of Gor

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Neither battery nor solar power is needed to keep things ticking over.

    "Neither battery nor solar power is needed to keep things ticking over."... If solar is not needed, then pray tell, how does the plant keep from dying? ;)

  5. david.channon

    Surely the trick with making things biodegradable is to design them so the are re-usable - and not worry about them biodegrading.

    If the PCB's are designed to be repairable, reusable, convertible etc then that must be the way forward - and surely these things don't need to be THAT small that size is a major factor is designing and implementing the PCB.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Unless you intend to scatter them over some pristine ecosystem to monitor it without having to build roads for people to go in and place /remove/ repair sensors

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      AFAICS the application is monitoring. I suppose that for agricultural cycles that involve regular ploughing you might well want things to be biodegradable but there must be other situations where longevity is important.

    3. RunawayLoop

      Perhaps a biodegradable coating over top of this would do the trick... bees wax is a possibility although I don't know if that would interfere with the operation of the circuit. This Instructable uses paper and lead pencil to create a functional circuit.

  6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    I knew it would happen...

    There is plant life which is more technologically capable than some of the people that I work with.

  7. spold Silver badge

    They have it the wrong way around

    I'm convinced that most IoT (IoS***) devices are pushing up the daisies right out of the box.

  8. Alister Silver badge

    So It's Turf an' Surf then?

    is it?

  9. Phil Endecott

    > which 'costs' only 75 microWatt per message

    Typical ignorant nonsensical misuse of units.

    Maybe they mean 75 micro Joules per message. Or maybe they mean it consumes 75 micro Watts while sending messages (taking how long?). But who knows; it’s like saying “the shop is 30 mph away” or “the train’s top speed is 125 miles” or “this wind farm produces enough energy to supply a city the size of Bristol each day”.

    1. Ordinary Donkey

      I hadn't noticed that there wasn't a reg standard for such things until now.

      Can I suggest someone research the actual values and we can submit 'plants transmitting to space' for consideration?

    2. RunawayLoop

      Let's lock in the beard-second as the official unit of measurement for plant communication!

    3. Phil Endecott

      BTW my last rant about this was something described as using “6 kWh per 1000 h”.

      Dimensionally correct this time, but still fecking stupid.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like promising tech, but they'll need to get some grassroots support for this so people don't think it's just astroturfing

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

      Get some STEM graduates working on it

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        They'll need to install some heavy plant first.

        1. 0laf Silver badge

          We don't need anyone to sow seeds of doubt.

          This is clearly an example of the green shoots of enterprise.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Leaf it out with the punning, flower

  11. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Uh-oh! Where's the Rise of the Machines tag?

    The unit can send a message saying, "I need harvesting".

    We all know what that means. Flee for your very lives meatsacks! The robots are coming!

    1. Brian Miller

      Re: Uh-oh! Where's the Rise of the Machines tag?

      "Surely only a matter of time before the Matrix has you?"

      No, it's only a matter of time before the flesh-eating DOD robots have you. Plants now, fleshy humans tomorrow. Those who are cyborgs will have their brains scooped out, and become upholstery for robots running Windows on a 6502.

  12. 0laf Silver badge

    Kill all humans

    Coming soon the Iphone O-neg with two sharpened electrodes that will be rammed into your skull by a highly trained Apple Emotional Experiencologist.

    This isn't to connect directly to your brain in any advanced AI singularity but just to harvest your lovely electrons to keep the battery case size down.

  13. Ima Ballsy

    Just use ....

    your cannabis plants to power the thing. Just ignore any dodgy results you might get and the late night runs from the iot equipment to the battery bin for snacks ...

  14. MOH


    ... that there's no power plant references.

    Interesting idea. Although there's a potential catch-22 if the plant-powered sensor that notifies you when the plant needs care ends up being the reason the plant needs care.

  15. quartzz

    I thought the "Internet of things" meant that companies website doesn't work, and they never reply to emails

  16. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Greta will be most impressed by this news.

    She will most certainly tell all vehicle manufacturers to stop using traditional energy materials (petrol, diesel, batteries etc) and instead to have a patch of grass on the car's roof which'll power the car's electric motor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Awww, you're sooooo funny :)

      >She will most certainly tell all vehicle manufacturers to stop [etc. etc. blahh blahhhh.]

      "Why is Greta Thunberg so triggering? Because of what she represents. In an age when democracy is under assault, she hints at the emergence of a new kind of power, a convergence of youth, popular protest and irrefutable science. And for her loudest detractors, she also represents something else: the sight of their impending obsolescence hurtling towards them."

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