Domiciled in Russikon near Zurich/Switzerland, PlantCare Ltd. was founded in 2005 and is fully
owned by its management.
PlantCare develops and markets intelligent irrigation systems for agriculture and landscaping to ensure demand based irrigation and make the most efficient use of water as a resource. In addition, PlantCare is developing wireless systems for the monitoring of soil moisture levels and soil temperature for larger surface areas. These systems are based on the company’s worldwide patented products and irrigation methods. Among the customers of PlantCare, alongside leading European research institutes and agricultural companies, are irrigation professionals in agriculture and landscaping.
Dr. Walter Schmidt CEO
Walter Schmidt is the founder and CEO of PlantCare Ltd..
From 1991 to 2001, he was the owner and CEO of Dyconex, a high-tech company in the electronics business. From 1979 to 1991, he was head of the Interconnect Technology Division at Oerlikon Contraves in Zurich.
Walter Schmidt is the President of the European Interconnect Technology Initiative e.V. in Frankfurt am Main as well as a member of the Advisory Board of the Association for Electronic Components and Systems of the ZVEI Central Association for the Electrotechnology and Electronics Industry e.V. in Frankfurt am Main.
Walter Schmidt studied mechanical engineering at the higher technical institute HTL Graz and graduated with a doctorate in physics at the Technical University Graz. Walter Schmidt holds over 80 patents. He is a Swiss national.
The PlantCare story started back in 2004 with the invention of a new type of soil moisture sensor based on Micro Heat Pulse Method (patented by PlantCare). In 2005 the sensor was introduced to Gardena, the leading garden brand throughout Europe that focuses on residential irrigation systems. At that time, Gardena was using (without great success) tensiometers, which would control their timers. After several months of intensive testing of the PlantCare sensor, Gardena was convinced by the new technology and concluded a comprehensive licensing agreement for the use of the PlantCare sensor. Since 2006, Gardena has sold more than 90’000 sensors.
Meanwhile PlantCare has launched a number of sensor products and smart irrigation methodologies for the R&D and agricultural market as well as commercial irrigation segment, which are seen as absolutely leading edge. In the following, we will focus in a short form just on the most important differentiators of PlantCare’s various technologies and products.
Different than all existing sensors on the market, PlantCare’s MHP sensor “sees” respectively measures only the plant available water, the most crucial parameter in terms of moisture analyses or irrigation scheduling. Bound water or water in the roots of a plant is not measured. Another issue with existing sensor technologies is that their moisture values are misleading and distorted due to the salt or fertilizer content in the soil, whereas the PlantCare sensor readings are unaffected by any of these contents.
The sensors small form/shape has, besides an easy installation and easy removal possibility, the advantage that reliable moisture data can be obtained at even minimum depth (from 5 cm on). This is crucial when seeds are sowed or turf moisture is measured. Furthermore and based on the MHP sensor technology, the soil temperature is measured along with the soil moisture. Therefore, no additional sensors are needed for soil temperature.
In 2016, PlantCare began to combine a new wireless technology - previously unavailable - with our sensors. This technology (LoRaWAN - Long Range Wide Area Network) was developed in the USA and uses a new modulation technology, which ensures very long ranges at very low radio power. So one can reach with 25 mW power up to 20 km. In the meantime, this technology has become the standard in the Internet of Things, and PlantCare has completely switched to this technology. As always, new technologies have their drawbacks as well as advantages, but they can easily be bypassed with LoRa technology. The explanations and illustrations below are intended to illustrate and explain the various uses. Basically, two different application variants are possible: Internet Server-Application Locally installed components 20 km free view PC, Tablett, Smartphone Public LP-Net If a public low-power network (LPN) is available. In this case, so-called gateways - access points to the Internet - are already installed nationwide by a telephone provider. These antennas are usually mounted on the existing mobile phone antenna masts, which are naturally placed in elevated positions. Such a nationwide LP network is e.g. already available in Switzerland, Holland and South Korea. As a result, suitably equipped and configured sensors can be placed in virtually any position and they are immediately connected to the Internet. From there, the data - prepared accordingly - can be downloaded and viewed on Smartphones, tablets or PCs.
Mit privatem Low-Power-Network (LPN)
Um auch in Ländern ohne öffentliches LPN diese Technologie anwenden zu können nutzt man ein privates Gateway. Mittels eines Netzwerkkabels muss es dann mit einem Router – der praktisch immer vorhanden ist damit der Zugang zum Internet gewährleistet ist – verbunden werden.
Water scarcity already affects every continent and an increasing number of regions are chronically short of water. In the context of food security, Governments, research institutes, agricultural organisations as well as farmers are looking for ways for a better irrigation scheduling. Furthermore, many plant diseases and yield issues are related to inadequate irrigation (under-irrigation/over-irrigation). A further consequence of inadequate irrigation is the groundwater contamination from pesticides.
The two main questions in irrigation scheduling and consequently meeting the above mentioned challenges are when to start and irrigation and how long to irrigate. PlantCare’s main investment in the past years was to find answers exactly for these two questions. The result of this investment is the PlantControl CX with up to 60 wireless sensors and the so called Dynamic Runtime Adjustment (DRA) technology. As the Micro Heat Pulse sensor advantages are already described above, the following will focus mainly on the DRA technology benefits/differentiators.
The PlantControl CX only starts irrigation, when a defined dry threshold is measured by the sensor(s). By defining also the target moisture after irrigation end, the DRA technology automatically adjusts runtime durations and thus keeps the soil always in a predefined moisture bandwidth. The self-learning characteristic of the PlantControl CX software takes also into account any seasonal temperature changes, growth stadium of plant, changes in water supply pressure, changes in water supply due to aging hose pipes etc.