October 6, 2015

Mother of all Updates!

The journey from prototype to product is full of twists and turns. But we have been able to steadily move forward in it, primarily because of the many wonderful people who have been helping us in this process. This is an update of updates that describes the whats, hows and whos of it so far…

 

The Big Leap: When we decided to go battery.

This was the single most significant decision we made. Many of you suggested that you’d prefer a battery operated product rather than wired one. And that made sense. We knew it would mean changing the architecture of the product at many minute levels. But we decided to take the challenge up and it has been keeping us on the edge of our seats ever since!

From Remote to Self WateringPower hungry motors were the main challenge to going battery operated way. We found a way the plants could be watered ‘automatically’ without using any power! It’s called ‘self watering’, the principle on which we redesigned the planters. You can read more about all that went behind making this decision here.

Status: UV Treated high grade ABS plastic planters (outer shell) is being manufactured and shipped from China as we speak (See pics)
A big shoutout to:Hariram and Teddy (aka Sudhakar) for validating self watering system. Babu Narayan of Sterna Securities and Arun Tilak for the import connection

Greenopia in production

Greenopia in production

Manufacturing and packaging in progress in the factory of our Chinese partner

Manufacturing and packaging in progress in the factory of our Chinese partner

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Separate the ElectronicsWith the motor removed, there was no reason why we should have fixed the electronic components inside the planter. Instead, we decided to turn it into a portable “dipstick” you could dip into the soil. Better serviceability 🙂

Machine vs Hand AssemblyMigrating the electronics from inside the planter to a dipstick meant a new architecture of all electronic components. It would take time to arrive at the right configuration. Our dilemma: A custom board would allow us to start early by giving us a flexibility to make changes on the go. But it would also be less reliable since it is hand assembled. On the other hand, machine assembled board would be far more reliable but would need us to be dead sure of our design. We decided to go in favour of better reliability, though the trade off was longer time taken to be dead sure of the design.

Status: With our new and promising hardware partner Protocentral, we are finalising the designs. The first test batch should be out by 15th of October.
A big shout out to: Ashwin and Manikandan from Protocentral, Tej from Jaaga, Don GibsonNihal, Darshan and Nagasai Arun from IOTBlr 

Does Appearance Matter?Moving all electronics to the dipstick was a smart move performance-wise. But it needed a casing. Custom-designed casing meant increasing costs and time. Some said our backers won’t mind an off-the-shelf box. But again, we wanted push the envelope and design something that looked decent. When in doubt, look at the Alumni network! NID seniors Saikat and Puttaraj from Empoise appeared like an answer to our prayers and agreed to take up this challenge.

Status: Saikat and Puttu are working on designs that are simple yet aesthetic. They have come up with a couple of cost-effective manufacturing options. Once our first set of boards are ready, they will be able to speed it up.
A big shout out to: Besides Saikat and Puttaraj, we would not have dared to take this challenge up without great ideas from Vishnu and Gaurav.
The crude off-the-shelf-box version of dipstick that we decided to do away with. Refined one coming soon!

The crude off-the-shelf-box version of dipstick that we decided to do away with. Refined one coming soon!

 

Can battery power long distance relationships?
Backers told us they would like to check on their plants from their offices. This was possible only with Wifi. But will it be powered by battery? We explored other technologies like BLE, RF and finally cracked it. Read more on how we did it here

Status: This is resolved. A big shout out to: VishnuNagaraj from Melange Systems, Relysis, Lekha Wireless, WiSense

Which Battery?
AA batteries were cheaper but increased the size of the dipstick, taking more real estate where precious plants could grow. Lipo were more reliable but doubled the cost and changed the circuit. By now you must have guessed our bias – on the side of reliability :). Read more about how we thought through this one here

Status: We have tested some Lipo powered dipsticks with Wifi and the results are promising. At the very least one charge should last you a month.  The circuit, with Lipo charging feature are designed and the first batch will be ready by Oct 15th.A big shout out to: Vishnu

 

What about other stuff? 

App: Alpha release due 20th of Oct’15
Sneak Peek into the app!

Sneak Peek into the app!

Status: The App design has been progressing steadily and we are due to release its alpha version by 20th of October. Some of our backers in Bangalore have kindly agreed to test it before we send it out to all the rest of you. We will update our blog with a detailed post on this one shortly.
A big shout out to: Shoubhik who has been taking care of system architecture despite his hectic day job,  Veethika for designing it with so much love, care and playfulness, Cumulations for developing it, Harshal for inspiring us with ideas.

 

Gardening Intelligence
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Setting up your ‘personal gardening assistant’ at gardening expert Hariram’s place to learn from his practices.

A glimpse of the data collected from Hariram's garden.

A glimpse of the data collected from Hariram’s garden.

Status: Set up Greenopia smart kit at our first gardening expert’s (Hariram’s) place. It has started to learn from his practices. It is currently gleaning data for Microgreens. These heuristics will be tested in alpha release. Once the method is validated, gathering heuristics for the remaining plants that are due to be released in version 1 should take another 3-4 weeks.

A big shout out to: Hariram , Dr. P. Jeyakumar and Dr. K. Rajamani from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; Dr. Nikhil K. Kothurkar, Dr. P.P Nikhil Raj and Dr. Rajendra Kumar from Amrita Center For Sustainable Development; Srikant and Vani Murthy from Organic Terrace Gardening group on FB; Siddharth Jaiswal; Dr. Cherian Joshy; Anshuman Swain and friends from Indian Institute of Science; Reena from My Sunny Balcony, Shubham from Mera Garden, Mahesh Ru
 progress
All things taken into consideration, we’re estimating the first batch of Super Early Adopters to start shipping by early december. We will keep you posted on any new developments.

 

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