Plants and Technology: The Plants Can Talk Back?
Have you ever wondered how plants communicated? Studies have shown that a distressed plant releases a VOC, or volatile organic chemical, to warn other plants of any danger or threats. The plants who receive this chemical transmission then release their own VOC that will deter animals and attract a more dominant species of insect to help them out. This incredible communication method inspired Helene Seiner to being a research initiative called “Project Florence” at Microsoft Research.
Project Florence was based on the newer idea of the “Internet of Things,” where instead of technology talking to other technology, it was nature talking to us. This is accomplished by placing a plant into a blank device that then controls its environment. “Words” are taken in through a computer monitor and broken down into their chemical
compounds. These are then transmitted to the plant through multi-frequency light pulses. The plant is able to communicate back through the machine. It responds through a symbiotic message that is unbelievably put through Twitter, where it finds a like message that best represents the sentiment of the message.
Microsoft is now taking this relatively simple idea and researching its practical use for the fields of agriculture and engineering. The company already plans on building up aquaponics and hydroponics farms this summer to study at a larger scale.
This new and incredible way of communicating with the natural world around us could benefit the world in many different fields, including the building of a more sustainable agricultural system. It could certainly benefit us here at PLANTZ, too! We could learn so much about our indoor plants and office plants. It sounds out of this world, but it could definitely be in our future. Can you imagine getting a tweet from your Areca Palm saying, “Hey buddy! I need some water over here!”