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Planting for profit and greater good

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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014 4:20 pm | Updated: 12:23 am, Mon Jun 9, 2014.

A lemon tree springs from the soil in Jason Aramburu’s backyard in Berkeley, Calif., alongside rose bushes, birds of paradise, strawberry plants and squash blossoms. The garden is thriving, but its upkeep requires almost no effort from Aramburu. Instead, a foot-high soil sensor does much of the work.

The plastic-and-stainless-steel device, topped by a tiny solar panel, determines the amount of water to be delivered to the garden each day, using Aramburu’s Wi-Fi network to communicate with a valve attached to his irrigation system. If the air is humid or if rain is forecast, the valve limits or cuts off the supply. If the soil lacks nutrients, Aramburu receives an alert on a smartphone app telling him to add fertilizer. And it doesn’t hurt that the sensor initially analyzed the clay-filled dirt of his yard and recommended which plants would thrive there.

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