I have been into gardening for years but last year I went knee-deep into it. While the entire world was literally collapsing, I found solace in my houseplants and so did several people I met through plant clubs. But, growing houseplants indoors, which normally grow in the pristine conditions of the tropics is a formidable challenge. One of the biggest challenges is watering as improper water usage can severely affect the health of the plant. Water contaminated with pathogens and other hard materials can cause deterioration in root health and leaf burns. Given that the houseplant market is extremely inflated right now coupled with the fact that losing a plant can be both emotionally and financially exhausting, we propose a solution to the watering problem. The houseplant market is in full bloom right now. A recent survey of local plant groups that I am a part of showed that on average, a person bought around 100-200 plants last year averaging $1K in expenditure. These same people spent 100's of dollars on plant accessories and watering needs. Thus, the proposed solution already has a viable customer base to build a sustainable business around.
What it does
Our solution suggests a Point of Use (POU) water disinfection system that can be either coupled to an indoor greenhouse/ attached under a sink to meet the watering needs of your houseplants. A tubular-shaped coaxial electrode copper ionization cell (CECIC) was invented by Georgia tech researchers and can be used for this. (Technology number: 7981) This POU system can enable long-lasting and high-efficiency bacteria removal with very low effluent copper concentration.
How we built it
We built a schematic for the proposed solution which can be found in the video/images. We envision two scenarios: 1) The water is disinfected remotely under a kitchen sink/ bathroom sink and then the filtered water is carried over by custom water hoses with which the plants can be manually watered. 2) The POU system is installed as an attachment to the greenhouses directly and plants can be watered by drip irrigation through PVC pipes.
Challenges we ran into
There is significant seepage of water through planting pots as they usually have drainage holes. This extra water will accumulate at the bottom of the greenhouse which is not ideal for indoor conditions. So, we realized that this accumulated water can be pumped back through the inlet of a POU system using a motor, thus creating a sustainable solution around this challenge.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
This method is going to reduce the energy consumption and the per cubic meter cost of plant watering significantly while making the life of plant owners easy and ensuring good plant health.
What we learned
We learned that a technology developed for solving decentralized drinking water disinfection can also be used as a commercial product for a rather unrelated problem that has the potential of generating huge amounts of revenue while providing value to the quality of life.
What's next for A point of use (POU) water disinfection system for plants
It will be interesting to add more filters or add a chamber with plant nutrients to the POU tailored to the need of individual plants.